Dec 13, 2008

India - Crorepatis more likely to become MLAs: Study

Nandita Sengupta

NEW DELHI: Crorepati banega MLA. The more money you have, greater the chances of winning a seat. That's the mantra emerging from the recent
assembly elections in five states in a study of candidates' affidavits filed with their nomination papers.

Crorepati candidates have won 40% seats in the elections from a total of 629 seats across the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Delhi. Fewer than 3% candidates, with assets less than Rs 5 lakh, have triumphed, shows the report prepared by Association for Democratic Reforms as part of the New Election Watch campaign. ADR is a collective of more than 1,200 NGOs and citizens groups working for electoral reforms.

The average Delhi assembly MLA of 2008 is worth Rs 2.86 crore. There isn't much to choose financially between the average BJP (Rs 2.8 cr) and the Congress (Rs 2.7 cr) MLA. Interestingly, the average asset of the six BSP MLAs in Rajasthan works out to a whopping Rs 3.45 crore.

In Delhi, 31% of crorepatis with assets above Rs 5 crore emerged successful whereas no candidate with less than Rs 5 lakh won. The contrast is sharper in Chhattisgarh where 50%, or every second contesting crorepati with assets more than Rs 3 crore, prevailed. In comparison, among candidates with kitties of less than Rs 5 lakh, only 2% were victorious.

There is a clear link between high finance and the chance of bagging a seat, say experts. "We found that the more money you have, better the chances of winning,'' says Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of ADR. Well-known activist Nikhil Dey illustrates the point. "The trend shows polls are almost a game of kaun banega crorepati. If you compare the figures with last time's elections, you will find assets have increased by an average of Rs 1 cr in five years of holding office,'' he says.

A party-wise analysis shows the Congress fielded 121 crorepati winners and the BJP 110 in these polls. The candidates' declarations can be taken with a pinch of salt. In Rajasthan, for instance, an MLA with less than Rs 1 lakh assets owns a high-end car. "The study is based on their declarations and they may be lower than the actual assets,'' says Bairwal, whose study also concludes that the number of MLAs with criminal records has gone up since the 2003 polls.

In Delhi, for instance, compared to 2003, the number of MLAs with criminal records has gone up from 24 to 27. That means now, 40% of newly-elected MLAs in the 69-seat Delhi assembly have criminal records.

As per the affidavits, a total 549 candidates with criminal records contested in these elections. Of them, 124 won. That's about 23%. While MP has a maximum of 54 such MLAs, Rajasthan is second with 30, Chhattisgarh 11 and Mizoram 3.

That deep pockets and crime go hand-in-hand is shown by Rajasthan, where the nine MLAs with serious criminal charges against them are all crorepatis.

An assembly of crorepatis

In Delhi all MLAs in current assembly are either lakhpatis or crorepatis. There are a total of 46 crorepatis. Congress has 24, BJP 19 and the BSP 2. One is an Independent.

In MP, 12 crorepati MLAs do not have PAN numbers.

12 Delhi MLAs with asset declaration of more than Rs 1 crore said they own no vehicle.

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