Meghalaya politicians' assets grew higher than state's GSDP

Shillong, Feb 13 (IANS) Assets of 111 candidates seeking re-election to the 60-member Meghalaya assembly grew astonishingly 252 percent higher than the state's Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), which saw an average growth of only 15 percent from 2007-12, a report said Tuesday.

The Meghalaya Election Watch (MEW), state chapter of the non-profit National Election Watch (NEW), noted these 111 politicians' average assets were worth Rs.66.20 lakh in 2008 and rose to Rs.2.33 crore in five years in 2013, an average growth of Rs.1.66 crore or 252 percent.

All the candidates who contested the 2008 assembly election were "lakhpatis" and in five years most of them became "crorepatis", which means politicians are getting richer while the people in the state are not, the MEW report said.

According to the Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Meghalaya's GSDP was Rs.9,735 crore in 2007-08, an increase of 12.87 percent over the previous year at current prices. This went up to Rs.17,459 crore in 2011-12, rising 15.36 percent over the previous year at current prices. On an average, the GSDP grew by about 15 percent.

Among the 111 candidates contesting the elections this year, some of the politicians' assets increased by 39,439 percent. Sitting Congress legislator Sniawbhalang Dhar's assets grew to Rs.2.96 crore in 2013 from just Rs.75,000 in 2008, an increase of 39,439 percent in five years.

Similarly, assets of Amapreen Lyngdoh, Meghalaya's lone woman legislator and the urban affairs minister from the Congress party, grew 9,196 percent. Amapreen Lyngdoh had total assets worth Rs.23,515 in 2008 that touched Rs.21.86 lakh in the period under consideration.

The assets of Comingone Ymbon, a sitting Congress MLA, grew from Rs.1 crore to Rs.25 crore in 2007-12.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma's assets grew from Rs.3 crore in 2008 to Rs.14 crore in 2013, an increase of 323 percent. Almost all the other politicians' assets grew staggeringly over this period and the list is astounding.

The analysis of affidavits of 341 candidates out of 345 who are contesting the Feb 23 assembly elections showed that 33 percent of the candidates are "crorepatis", the MEW report said.

Ngaitlang Dhar, a congress candidate from Umroi constituency, has Rs.235.64 crore worth of assets and is the richest among the candidates. Charles G.R. Syngkli of the Nationalist Congress Party has declared that he has assets worth only Rs.2,500.

In the list of the top 20 candidates with high assets, five women are "crorepatis", including Chief Minister Mukul Sangma's wife Dikanchi D. Shira, former deputy chief minister Deboarh C. Marak, former urban affairs minister Roshan Warjri, and leaders like Banalari Khongwar and Ibanrilin Kharsati.

"These are the declared assets of the candidates as filed in their affidavits," Mayfereen Rynthathiang, an MEW official said.

Besides, four percent of the candidates have also declared that there are criminal charges against them.

The MEW revealed that seven candidates - one each from the UDP, NPP and five Independents - have serious criminal charges like extortion, sedition and cheating against them.

Of the seven candidates who have declared serious criminal cases, three top candidates are Marcuise N. Marak of the National People's Party (charged with sedition); Arun N. Marak of the United Democratic Party (charged with extortion); and Independent candidate Kismet A. Sangma from North Tura (charged for cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), the report stated.

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