Tamil Nadu will elect its leaders to 18 Assembly and 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state in just over two weeks. While the state will see over 1200 candidates compete for these seats, it has now emerged that that the richest candidate to the state Assembly is Mohanraj Jebamani of the Jebamani Janata Party, who has declared Rs 1.76 lakh crore cash in hand and a Rs 4 lakh crore loan from the World Bank.
In what has turned out to be a massive embarrassment for the Election Commission, the affidavit of Mohanraj Jebamani of the Jebamani Janata Party has been accepted from the Perambur Assembly constituency, raising questions on the scrutiny of the details declared in the document.
According to the affidavit filed by Mohanraj, he declares that he has Rs 1.76 lakh crore in cash, which is also his total assets. The figure, however, is no coincidence for this infamous number is oft-quoted as the notional loss accruing to the exchequer in the alleged 2G scam involving former Union Telecom Minister A Raja and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi. Both DMK leaders, who were acquitted by the special court in 2017, have launched their electoral bid this poll season, contesting to be MPs from Nilgiris and Thoothukudi respectively.
Under the 'Loans from Banks' section, Mohanraj lists '4 lakh crore loan with World Bank' as part of other dues. While the World Bank does not hand out loans to individuals, here too, the number refers to the predicted outstanding debt of the state by 2020. Although the affidavit evoked shock and amusement online, serious questions have arisen over why the Returning Officer ignored the claims especially when it came to the World Bank loan.
Although it is an offence to file a false affidavit, it is unclear if the Election Commission has initiated action against Mohanraj.
In a video message posted to his YouTube page on March 29, Mohanraj openly admits to having filed a totally false affidavit. “In 2014, Karti Chidambaram (of the Indian National Congress, son of former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram) contested from Sivaganga. He filed his nomination on April 4. On April 7, an Income Tax Commissioner from Delhi filed a 147-page complaint, stating that Karti had altered a lot of details and requesting that his nomination be rejected. At that point, there was a rule that there would be a punishment of 6 months' imprisonment for filing false affidavits. I was contesting from Virudhunagar and wrote to the EC. There was no action,” Mohanraj alleges.
He goes on to allege, “In 2016, I tried to bring the issue up again by filing an RTI with the Sivaganga Collector but he took money and said no. There was a lot of back and forth. A PIL I filed with the Madras High Court too was never listed. On April 26 that year, just 10 days later, the EC wrote to me saying that the punishment for filing false affidavits had been made a civil issue,” he says, explaining the rationale for filing a false affidavit.
Citing a number of cases that never saw a ‘perfect investigation’ by the Election Commission, Mohanraj alleges, “I wrote that I have Rs 1.76 lakh crore cash purely to embarrass the EC. The affidavit ie Form 26 is waste. The law to make affidavit discrepancies a civil matter was enacted solely to protect Karti Chidambaram.” Mohanraj has previously unsuccessfully contested on an anti-corruption platform in Lok Sabha and state Assembly Elections from a number of constituencies across the state. For a ‘spicy’ touch this time around, Mohanraj has been granted his request: the green chilly poll symbol for his contest from the Perambur bye-poll seat. The fiery speaker, who gives out his phone number for voters to contact him says he is healthy at 67 despite 'looking old.'