Is there a link between being rich and being elected? Well, yes and it is a strong one. Our Parliament and assemblies have turned into hubs of crorepatis. It means the not-so-rich are getting marginalised in the electoral process.
Check the numbers first.
* Of the 543 members in the 15th Lok Sabha 315 are crorepatis; Rajya Sabha had a 100 of them.
* In the just elected Punjab Assembly, 101 out of 117 MLAs are in the crorepati club.
* In Uttrakhand assembly 32 out of 70 MLAs have assets worth beyond one crore.
* Of 403 MLAs from Uttar Pradesh, 271 are crorepatis. The 2007-2012 assembly was much poorer, with only 124 in the club.
The numbers, provided by Association for Democratic Reforms, an NGO that works towards strengthening democracy and governance, narrate another story of Indian democracy, beyond victory and defeat of parties and people voting their aspirations. They reveal that men with deep pockets are better placed to contest elections and win them compared to their less well off rivals. It also means parties prefer candidates who can take care of their own election expenses.
Does it explain the disconnect between people and our politicians? Partially. Most of the crorepatis are industrialists and businessmen. It is only natural that they would protect the interests of their ilk when it comes to policy-making and legislation. They are in a better position to influence decisions that the representatives of the disadvantaged sections.
But there’s more to the story than just the head count. The average asset growth for recontesting MLAs from Punjab is Rs 3.43 crore. Between 2007 and 2012, the assets of these MLAs grew by 60% on an average. In Uttrakhand, the average asset growth for re-contesting MLAs is Rs 1.47 crore — 177 percent, the ADR survey conducted by National Election Watch says. In Manipur, assets of such MLAs grew by Rs 98.43 lakh on an average. In Uttar Pradesh, the numbers were Rs 2.09 crore and 213 percent respectively. Average asset growth for re-contesting MLAs in Goa is Rs 4.58 crore and the average percentage growth in assets for these MLA is 171.
The averages never tell the full story but they certainly let us know that politics pays, and pays well. Adding a few crores to one’s assets in five years is not a bad deal at all.