Bihar deputy chief minister Tarkishore Prasad grew by 12 years in a five-year period between 2015 and 2020, as per poll affidavits he submitted to the Election Commission.
In his 2015 poll affidavit, the four-term Katihar MLA had stated his age as 52. However, in the just concluded assembly polls, he mentioned himself to be 64 years old. In his debut electoral battle in 2005, Prasad in his poll affidavit had reportedly mentioned that he was 48 years old, which increased by just one year to 49 in his 2010 election affidavit.
“My date of birth is January 5, 1956. It is mentioned in my matriculation certificate and I stand by it. As far as election affidavits are concerned, there could have been clerical errors in calculating my age,” Tarkishore Prasad was quoted saying by a Kolkata daily.
Prasad is not alone; as many as a dozen candidates with discrepancies in their declared ages have come to light.
Take the case of the RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. According to his poll affidavit, he is older by a year to his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav.
Tejashwi, who submitted his poll affidavit for the Raghopur assembly seat, has declared his age as 31 years. On the other hand, elder brother Tej Pratap, who contested from Hasanpur, declared his age as 30 years.
In the 2015 assembly polls too, Tej Pratap Yadav had declared his age as 25 years while an affidavit filed by his younger brother Tejashwi showed him as completing 26 years.
At that time the BJP had urged the Election Commission to probe Tejashwi Yadav’s papers.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s former minister Jai Kumar Singh is another example. Contesting in 2015 from the Dinara assembly seat in Rohtas district, he mentioned his age as 46 in the poll affidavit. However, in the latest 2020 poll affidavit, he declared himself as a 56-year-old contestant, i.e., a rise of 10 years in a span of five years.
RJD candidate and runner-up from Bhojpur district’s Barhara seat, Saroj Yadav’s case is more baffling. He became younger by three years between 2015 and 2020. In his 2015 affidavit, he mentioned that he had completed 33 years, while in his latest affidavit he says that he’s just 30 years old.
Dr Nikki Hembram, BJP’s candidate and now MLA from Katoria (reserved) seat, has not aged a bit in the past five years, as per her poll affidavit. In 2015 she mentioned her age as 42 years, which has remained the same in her latest 2020 poll affidavit.
Ramanand Mandal, JD(U) candidate and runner-up from Suryagarha seat in Lakhisarai district, and Gyanendra Singh, BJP candidate and winner from Barh constituency, too, have age discrepancies in their poll affidavits.
“How can a person forget his date and year of birth?” questions Rajiv Kumar, Bihar state coordinator for the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). “If he or she cannot remember his or her date of birth, it just shows one of two things- either he or she is careless or simply thinks of themselves to be above the law.”
In many cases, advocates for the candidates fill the affidavit and they simply sign over it without even going through it, feels Kumar, who played a key role in analysing these data.
Kumar is backed by Prof Trilochan Sastry, the chairman of ADR. “I believe it is carelessness on the candidate's behalf,” he says. Sastry further pointed out that one cannot get too serious about minor deviations in declaring age or income. “5 per cent less or 5 per cent more” that’s it; however “if there is major omission like not declaring a murder case despite having a case, then the Election Commission can take action,” says Sastry.
If it is pointed out to the EC and if the poll panel is provided with documentary evidence, it has the power to act against the erring candidate. However, legally the one levelling the accusation has to prove that such omission in the affidavit would have affected the outcome of the election, says Sastry. “But that is very hard to prove,” he cautions.
According to Section 125A in The Representation of the People Act, 1951, if a candidate gives false information which he knows or has reason to believe to be false, or conceals any information, in his nomination, he or she will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
What exactly is the number of candidates who have discrepancies in their age declaration? “It is hard to give an exact number as one will have to go through all the affidavits filed before the EC. But these are surely just the tip of the iceberg,” says Rajiv Kumar.