About 29% of all candidates in the ongoing general elections are crorepatis, compared with 27% in 2014 and 16% in 2009.
Members of Parliament (MPs) in India are not only far richer than an average Indian voter but the former also adds to his/her wealth at a much faster pace. Sitting MPs, who are contesting in the 2019 elections, saw their assets jump 41% to an average of Rs 23.65 crore, according to an analysis by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government outfit that works for “electoral and political reforms”. About 29% of all candidates in the ongoing general elections are crorepatis, compared with 27% in 2014 and 16% in 2009.
In comparison, the average salary income reported by Indians stood at just Rs 3.19 lakh per year in 2016-17. If that was about the income tax-paying tiny upper stratum, the country’s net per capita income is estimated to have touched only Rs 1,26,699 a year in 2018-19.
ADR’s analysis also brought to light the fact that despite recent campaigns against it, criminality among politicians is still on the rise.
Of the 7,928 in the fray in the ongoing general election, 19% have criminal cases against them compared to 17% (of 8,205 candidates) in 2014 and 15% (of 7,810) in 2009. Candidates with ”serious criminal cases”, including rape and murder, registered against them are 13% of those in the fray in 2019 against 11% in 2014 and 8% in 2009.
ADR noted that 265 or 49% of the Lok Sabha constituencies are “red alert constituencies”, where three or more candidates have criminal cases against them, increasing the probability of a criminal getting elected to Parliament. Red alert constituencies consisted of 45% in 2014 and 36% in 2009.
Among the candidates in the 2019 elections, Ramesh Kumar Sharma, an Independent contestant from Pataliputra (Bihar) is the richest, with assets of over Rs 1,107 crore, followed by Congress’ KV Reddy (Chevella, Telangana) with Rs 895 crore and Nakul Nath (MP chief minister Kamal Nath’s son) with Rs 660 crore.
While the BJP and the Congress have the highest share of crorepati candidates (83% each among those fielded by these parties), the CPI (M) saw its crorepati candidates grow from a mere 6% in 2009 to 36% in 2019.
Interestingly, Reddy’s assets jumped 69% between 2014 and 2019, but his total annual income in the latest I-T return was only Rs 11 crore. Congress’ Jyotiraditya Scindia’s assets saw the sharpest increase of 1032% between 20014 and 2019 to Rs 374 crore, even though his annual income was just Rs 1 crore.
A survey of 2.73 lakh people conducted by ADR in the 534 Lok Sabha constituencies to find out voters’ priorities found that ‘better employment opportunities’ topped the list with 46.8%, followed by better hospital/healthcare (34.6%), drinking water (30.5%) and better roads (28.34%).
In all these parameters, voters gave below average rating (less than 3 out of 5) for the government.
“There is a disconnect between what voters want and what political parties are offering in the election,” Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of ADR, said.