Kerala went to the Lok Sabha polls on the 10th May. The state is known for its educational thrust and grassroots democratic culture. Like in the 1999 elections, Kerala voter turnout was very respectable (71%). Only two constituencies (Ponnani and Ernakulam) had a turnout below 65%.
Two candidates with violent criminal charges elected
An analysis of affidavits indicated that 25 candidates reported (14 per cent) registration of some cases against them during the affidavit filing process before the elections. Of these 7 were from CPM, 5 from BJP, 1 from Congress, and 1 from PDP. The other 11 with criminal records were independents. Most cases are relating to unlawful assembly, obstruction of public duty, damage to public property, public speech in prohibited area, etc. Such offences are usually related to public protests.
For Kerala, the percentage of candidates with criminal records is not as high as in many other states. However, the Palakad and Ottapalam constituencies saw candidates with records of violent crime turning winners. N.N.Krishnadas and S.Ajayakumar belong to the CPM.
2004 Kerala election : Winners with a violent past
The LDF that won less than half of the total votes cast, but walked away with 90% of the seats while the UDF with 38% of the votes and NDA with 12% of the votes have just got one seat each. This highlights the exaggerated nature of reward and punishment that our 'first past the post' or 'winner take-all' election system provides.
The LDF had fielded two women candidates namely Satidevi (Vadakara, CPM) and C.S.Sujatha (Mavelikkara,CPM). Satidevi and C.S.Sujatha were both winners with the former winning by the largest margin of votes. The UDF had fielded Padmaja Venugopal, K.A.Thulasi and M.T.Padma. None of them won. The NDA fielded Uma Unni, who also was unsuccessful.
Other facts compiled from pre-poll affidavit analysis
The average age of all the 177 candidates was 46 years with the women coming out younger with 40 years than men with 47 years. However, independents and candidates from small parties influenced this average. If one goes by the Front-wise picture, the average age goes further upwards with the Fronts average being 52-53 years.
2. Education levels
As a state, Kerala is well known for its high priority for education. This seemed to reflect in the profile of the candidates fielded by most political parties. On the whole there are only 16 per cent (28 out of 177) candidates with less than SSLC level education, most of them being independents. Among the political parties in the three fronts, only three candidates (two from BJP and one from Muslim League) belong to this level of education. More than 50% (93 out of 177) held graduate or post-graduate degrees.
On the whole, the educational level of candidates in Kerala is of a relatively high order compared to many other states. For example, in Maharashtra 44 per cent of the candidates have only below SSLC level education.
3. Total Assets
The total assets per candidate were assessed without the value of vehicles owned by candidates because of difficulty in obtaining values of vehicles. Despite this the numbers do gives an indication of the wealth of the candidates. While 57 candidates (32%) report a total assets of less than Rs 100,000, 9 candidates (5%) reported assets over Rs.10 million (1 crore). An independent candidate from Kozhikode, Shantivarma Jain was the wealthiest with Rs.210 million (21 crores) of assets.
Around 70 candidates reported liabilities with the average liabilities being around Rs.300,000 per candidate. Only 3 candidates reported dues to Government with NDA candidate S.Krishnakumar from Mavelikara reporting over Rs.1.5 million (15 lakhs) to be paid to the Government.
5. Income Tax
Election Watch Kerala (EWK) developed an online database with detailed background information about the state's candidates. The database is searchable by constituency, party, front, candidate name, etc.
The purpose of the affidavit process is to ensure that candidates provide vital info about their background. Broadly, the introduction of the affidavit system has thrown up many details that would otherwise have been unknown to the general voter. But Kerala politicians are yet to take the system seriously. Many have treated it as a formality, with inconsistencies and gaps in most affidavits. The affidavit format itself needs to be redesigned for easier filling up and also easier to process, especially by computers.