Candidates with few or no assets are taking on the rich and the mighty in the ongoing election in Jammu and Kashmir.
Thirty-year-old Mohammad Imitiaz, an independent from Jammu parliamentary constituency, which went to polls yesterday, is perhaps the poorest among all the candidates in the state. He has no cash in hand or assets in his name. A graduate from Jammu University, Imitiaz has declared no income, no cash, no movable or immovable assets and no inherited property in his affidavit. A resident of remote Kalali village in the border district of Rajouri, Imitiaz has a valid PAN but no income.
"Only the poor can understand the pain of the poor," Imitiaz told dna. "There is no one who can raise their voice for the poor. So I decided to contest this election — to give a voice to the poor and underprivileged."
Imitiaz faced 18 other candidates. But he remained unfazed by the heavyweights in the fray. "It was on the insistence of the people that I jumped into the poll fray. They have a lot of hope and many expectations from me. Corruption is the biggest issue here. Take the example of NREGA, which guarantees 100 days of employment. But in our area, not even four people have received its benefit," he said.
Much like Imtiaz is 34-year-old Mirza Sajad Hussian Beigh, contesting the Srinagar parliamentary constituency as an independent. He has no assets in his or his spouse's name. In his affidavit, Beigh has said he has Rs 10,000 cash in hand and Rs 50,000 in deposits. He does not own a car, a house or any inherited property. A high school drop out, Beigh is the poorest candidate in the Srinagar constituency. "Money does not matter. I have the support of the youth, who are campaigning for me. I am confident that I will win this seat," he said.
Another Srinagar candidate, 32-year-old Feroze Ahmad Bhat, also an independent, has Rs 20,000 cash in hand and Rs 1 lakh in deposits. A resident of Chadoora in the central Kashmir district of Budgam, Bhat has no movable or immovable assets
Both Beigh and Bhat are up against the wealthy sitting MP and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, who has declared an income of Rs 10,67,304 for 2012-13. The 77-year-old union minister for new and renewable energy has movable assets worth Rs 1.5 crore, including shares in Reliance, term deposits, other deposits and two cars. He also has immovable assets worth Rs 11.60 crore. This includes two houses in Srinagar and Jammu, agricultural and non-agricultural land. Abdullah has said that his wife has been in London since April 1990, and that he has no knowledge about her assets.