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... neither is the richest man

Dimapur, Feb. 21: In Nagaland, the influence of money on elections is not something people shy away from speaking about on record. Hence, the length of the list of billionaires contesting this election, released by the NGO, Election Watch, was not much of a surprise.

Former chief minister K.L. Chishi’s nonchalance is no exception to the rule, with his assertion that his wealth will, in fact, be used to further the peoples’ cause.

Altogether 45 per cent of the 280 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections are crorepatis, an increase from the 27 per cent in the last Assembly elections, according to data released by the National Election Watch.

The list is topped by Chishi, who is contesting for the second time from Dimapur 1 constituency, with declared assets to the tune of Rs 53 crore.

Chief minister Neiphiu Rio follows with declared assets of Rs 30 crore.

The Congress leader, whose candidature from Dimapur 1 was under a cloud, will face stiff challenge from his one-time aide, Pukhavi Yepthomi, who is contesting as an Independent candidate.

One might find it difficult to locate the heavyweight minister’s residence because it is inside his property, the Chishi garden. The garden, which is big enough to be home for animals that need large areas for movement, houses his palatial residence lined by an alert team of armed guards and policemen.

The minister, however, says the opulence is just for the eyes. It is not liquid.

One being asked if he stands a better chance as money plays a big role here, the minister said, “I don’t have liquid cash. I have assets and I have declared them. If I don’t declare my assets, people will say I am living beyond my means,” he said.

Chishi, who describes Dimapur as the constituency he had nursed on his own, is confident of a win. “I am confident of a victory as the people in my constituency have full faith in me,” he said.

He hits out at the NPF government and its failure to negotiate a deal with the Centre and find a solution to the Naga political problem.

About his constituency, he had a protective tone. “There is a need for more protection to the people of this constituency as many traders and businessmen live here. They are subjected to threats and have to live in an insecure environment under the NPF government. I shall look forward to ensure alertness on part of the cops and that the security systems are in place,” he said.

On systematic corruption in the state, he said the Congress is blamed pointlessly.

He said he did not want to comment as it happens everywhere. “It is not the Congress which is in power in the state but the NPF. Hence, it is no use pointing fingers at the Congress.”

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