Is a Nepali Fugitive Winning Indian Election?
By Nava Thakuria
He is one of the richest candidates, who has contested for the Lok Sabha polls from Assam in Northeast India. A lottery baron turned politician, who has already won three times from Tezpur parliamentary constituency, is more known as a man of money.
There are plenty of stories, one can hear in Assam, how this man extends monetary help to the poor and needy people. He is also ‘sensitive’ to the economic problems of reporters and hence he tries to put some notes in the pockets of journalists, who happen to be close to him.
Today, he is one of the longest running parliamentarians in India and expecting to win for the fourth time to the lower house of Indian Parliament. After all, MK Subba is an Indian National Congress candidate and he has all his experiences behind him. Moreover he has money to engage in his endeavour. In his affidavit, Subba, 55, declared his asset as more than Rs 60 crore. The middle aged politician possesses cash and bank balance up to Rs.56 crore. He has land and flats in different parts of India amounting to Rs. 3.5 crore.
The Assam Tribune, a premier daily of Northeast editorialised the issue of money power in politics stating, “No matter what restrictions are imposed upon candidates by the Election Commission, there can be little doubt that far greater amounts of money are spent by them during campaigns”. Specifically mentioning about him, the editorial said, “Subba’s declared assets in the 2004 elections, for instance, was merely around Rs. 18 crore, or slightly less than one fourth of what it is five years later!”
But that is not the end of the story. He has a dubious background as well. There are allegations that he is a fugitive and is originally from Nepal. More precisely, he is Moniraj Limboo, a Nepali citizen, who escaped to India in the early Seventies. Moniraj is a murderer in Nepal and he was imprisoned by the Nepali court, in 1971. Later, he reportedly escaped to India. And soon he emerged as Moni Kumar Subba and amazingly he fought election (both assembly and parliamentary) in Assam.
The controversy surrounding Subba even reached the Apex Court of the country. The Supreme Court has been informed by the Central Bureau of Investigation that it was investigating the issue of his origin. A public interest litigation filed by a Noida resident alleged that Subba was not an Indian, but a Nepali citizen and worst, Subba is a convict in the court of Nepal.
Subba made it almost a habit to put different information regarding his pace and date of birth in different occasions. For records, Subba in his nomination papers for the 12th Lok Sabha polls informed his place of birth as Tezpur and date of birth as March 16, 1951. But the same man, in his disclosure for the 14th Lok Sabha polls, claimed his place of birth as Dabagram (Darjeeling of West Bengal) and the date of birth being March 16, 1958.
Subba, on the other hand, went on claiming that Moniraj Limboo was alive in Nepal. The Apex Court of Nepal convicted him and put in jail till 1982. Hence, it is understandable that Moniraj Limboo cannot be same with Moni Kumar Subba.
By any means, Subba has nothing to worry, because the Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and the senior Congress leaders like Pranab Mukherjee provided full support to him. While Gogoi endorsed his candidature even after the controversy, the External Affairs minister Mukherjee, during a recent press meet in Guwahati, argued that the debate over his nationality should be proved in the court.
The editorial of the premier English daily also commented, “Even more disturbing has been the fact that the tendency towards fielding of candidates, who possess enough monetary ammunition to carry forward a campaign battle, by political parties has become a rule rather than an exception.”
It also added, “Given that India has been bracketed by international agencies as one of the most corrupt countries in the globe, as also the many reports of political corruption littering the media, the ordinary man on the street cannot be blamed for harbouring a suspicion that there is something more than meets the eyes to such figures.”
Subba, on the other hand, remained confident of his winning, arguing, “The people of Tezpur are known as clever and cultured. If I am not an Indian and also not efficient, why had the electorate voted me for the third consecutive time?”
In the last Lok Sabha polls, Subba received 2,89,847 votes (out of total 10,06,389). Amazingly, the sober politician, who could not pass the high school leaving examination, got elected to the Assam legislative assembly (on Congress ticket) too in 1991 and 1996 from Naoboicha constituency.
Assam has already polled on April 16 & 23 and Subba’s main challenge is supposed to be Joseph Toppo. The tea tribe leader, Toppo has been nominated by the main opposition party Asom Gana Parishad, which had gone for an electoral alliance with the Bhartiya Janata Party in the state. One of his potential opposition candidates, the AUDF nominated Lakshmi Orang earlier left the battle, as the adivasi girl could not justify her candidature with appropriate documents to the election commission.
Now, if Subba wins once again, a common man definitely goes for self realisation that buying votes in India becomes a practice and it is rewarding for those tainted politicians. The second resolution might be, what is wrong to get some extra bucks from the candidates before the polls; because, once elected, he (or she) will neither look back at you nor the entire constituency!
Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati, Northeast India based independent journalist