After Congress’ Complaint, Poll Panel To Verify Union Minister’s Affidavit

Rajeev Chandrasekhar is the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology (File).

New Delhi:

The Election Commission has directed the CBDT, or Central Board of Direct Taxes, to verify potential mismatch – between actual and declared assets, and income – in affidavits filed by the BJP’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar ahead of his candidature for the Lok Sabha seat in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram.

The poll panel’s direction to the CBDT came after the Congress – which leads the opposition United Democratic Front in the southern state – filed a complaint that claimed the Union Minister misrepresented information about assets and income streams. Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front – led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) also filed a complaint.

The law says candidates concealing information in nomination papers or affidavits – a violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 – could face a six-month prison sentence and/or get a fine

In the 2024 Lok Sabha election, Mr Chandrasekhar will try to flip the seat held by the Congress’ Shashi Tharoor since 2009. In 2019 Mr Tharoor beat the BJP’s K Rajasekharan by over one lakh votes.

Controversy over Mr Chandrasekhar’s poll affidavit broke after it showed his income for FY 2021/22 was just Rs 680. For FY20 and FY23, however, he declared incomes of Rs 17.5 lakh and Rs 5.50 lakh.

Mr Chandrasekhar also declared total assets worth Rs 28 crore; these included cash, bank deposits, holdings in non-banking financial companies and cooperative societies, as well as investments bonds, debentures, shares, units in companies/mutual funds, and other financial instruments.

His movable assets included a vintage motorcycle – a 1942 Red Indian Scout – and other items valued at an estimated Rs 3.25 crore. His sole declared immovable asset was a plot of non-agricultural land in Bengaluru in Karnataka worth an estimated Rs 14.4 crore. The opposition had also alleged that the Union Minister did not disclose other owned real estate, including property in Bengaluru.

The ruling LDF has also claimed Mr Chandrasekhar neglected to disclose his connection to a holding company called Jupiter Capital, despite its website listing him as its ‘founder’. It has alleged this is an attempt to “hide the complex web of companies used to hide his true assets”.

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Mr Chandrasekhar has denied all charges and said, “All my disclosures are compliant with the law”.

Mr Tharoor has declared assets of over Rs 55 crore and a total income of over Rs 4.32 crore for FY 23.

Meanwhile, also today the Supreme Court observed voters could not have an “absolute right” to details about every asset of an election candidate. The court said the candidates had a right to privacy regarding matters deemed irrelevant to their standing for public office.

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