A man who spent 12 years behind bars for murder has replaced his daughter as candidate from a Lok Sabha constituency in Assam.
The Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) had named Laxmi Oraon as its candidate from Tezpur months before the election dates were announced. The party was eager to reach out to plantation workers, considered the second largest en masse voters after Muslims in Assam, and in Laxmi it found an adivasi symbolic of deprivation.
In November 2007, she had been stripped on the streets of Guwahati after a rally seeking ST status for “tea tribes” went horribly wrong.
In their eagerness to announce Laxmi’s name, the AUDF’s leaders overlooked the fact that she was too young to be a candidate. The Constitution stipulates a minimum age of 25 years for a person to contest polls. In her nomination papers, Laxmi said she was born in October 1983, but the admission card of her HSLC examinations showed she is 19 years old (born on August 10, 1989).
“Her candidature was cancelled today after she was found to be underage,” Sonitpur deputy commissioner Rajesh Prasad told HT from Tezpur. AUDF leader HRA Choudhury said the party had anticipated Laxmi’s eligibility problem and had fielded her father, Deva Oraon, as a substitute, albeit independent, candidate.
Here too, the AUDF failed to do its homework.
“We were not aware that Laxmi’s father had served a sentence for murder, and we cannot do anything about it now,” said Choudhury. He said Deva’s candidature had been cleared since he had not been involved in any crime during the past two years. “Besides, he is a reformed man,” said Choudhury. Deva spent 12 years in jail after he was accused of murdering one Bhola Bora of northeastern Assam’s Biswanath Chariali town in 1966.
Laxmi said she had been victimised yet again. “I will move court against this conspiracy to deny my candidature,” she said. “By removing me, the machinery wanted to ensure victory for Mani Kumar Subba who, like always, faked his date of birth and became eight years younger this time.”
Congress’s Subba is looking for a fourth straight win from Tezpur, where 16 candidates are in the fray.
Chief election officer Hemanta Narzary denied Laxmi’s allegations. “The returning officer went by the book to cancel her candidature and accept Subba’s,” he said.
AUDF president Maulana Badruddin Ajmal made his millions from extracting and exporting agar oil -- a trade yet to be legalised in Assam.