With total assets of around Rs 56 crore, Dhanvantri Chandela, fielded by the Congress from the Rajouri Garden constituency, is easily one of the richest among candidates for the Delhi Assembly election. But she neither has a permanent account number (PAN) nor has she reported details of her income-tax returns to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Chandela is not alone. Keeping her company on the long list of candidates who have not disclosed their PAN or I-T details are the Bahujan Samajwadi Party’s (BSP’s) Munni Seth-Rajendra Sharma, seeking election from Madhya Pradesh’ Dewas Assembly constituency (total assets to the tune of Rs 12.67 crore), and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Bikaner candidate Sahi Ram Bishnoi (assets of Rs 1.72 crore), among others. If their nomination papers are anything to go by, these people have no PAN and do not file their income-tax returns.
In Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan — the five states where elections have either taken place or are to take place this year — one in every four candidates has not disclosed details of PAN, while every second has not given income-tax return details. According to Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) data for various states, compiled by Business Standard, of the 3,337 candidates fielded, the affidavits of 914 (28 per cent) have no mention of PAN and those of 1,502 (45 per cent) do not give income-tax return details.
The income of some of these candidates may not fall in the taxable bracket, but that cannot be true for all — at least 99 of those deciding not to give out I-T details have total declared assets of more than Rs 1 crore.
But, in a majority of cases where these details have not been given out, the candidates have chosen to write ‘Nil’. A senior ECI officer says submitting wrong information cannot be a ground for a candidate’s disqualification but he surely can be prosecuted.
According to S Y Quraishi, former chief election commissioner of India, it is the responsibility of the returning officer to ensure no column in a candidate’s affidavit is left blank. But, he says, the officer cannot always verify the veracity of a piece of information given. “If a candidate gives false information in his affidavit, anyone can file a case against him and challenge his candidature.”
Among the five states, Mizoram seems to lead the pack, with 78 per cent of its candidates not disclosing their PAN details. Nearly 37 per cent of the 142 contesting in the state (52 candidates) have declared assets of over Rs 1 crore.
About 43 per cent of Chhattisgarh’s 983 candidates, 16 per cent of Rajasthan’s 733 and 15 per cent of Delhi’s 796 have not mentioned their PAN. The proportion of candidates with assets of more than Rs 1 crore in these states stands at 22 per cent, 47 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.
So far as those who have not filed their I-T return details are concerned, their share in the total number of candidates stands at 67 per cent in Chhattisgarh, 40 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, and 39 per cent in Delhi.