The number of multi-millionaires contesting elections in Kerala has gone up with parties fielding more and more moneyed men and celebrities in the coming assembly election in the state.
Analysis of the affidavits filed before the Election Commission shows that all major parties, including the Communist party, that champion the cause of proletariat, have candidates with wealth worth several crores.
Candidates in both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state were mostly career politicians, who rose from grassroots. The trend saw a change in 2006 Assembly polls with 20 multi-millionaires entering the fray.
The number of multi-millionaire candidates increased to 68 in the next elections in 2011, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that analysed the election affidavits filed before the Election Commission.
The Congress-led the list of crorepati candidates in 2011 with 14 multi-millionaires. Its second largest ally, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), came a close second by fielding 13 multi-millionaires. The BJP was in the third position, with 11 of its candidates figuring in the list. Even the CPM had six candidates on the crorepati list in 2011.
The ADR analysis showed that 33 of the 68 crorepati candidates in 2011 made it to the assembly. In 2006, eight of 20 won the election.
The Lok Sabha elections held in 2014 had 39 candidates figuring in the crorepati club. Shashi Tharoor of the Congress, who won from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, was the richest among the candidates with assets worth Rs 23 crore.
Anitha Prathap, writer and senior journalist, who contested from Ernakulam as the Aam Aadmi Party candidate, held the second position with Rs 20 crore.
NRI businessman Thomas Chandy led the crorepati candidates club both in 2006 and 2011 Assembly polls with a declared asset of Rs 16 crores and Rs 45 crores respectively. However, he has been pushed down to second place this time.
The richest candidate this time belongs to a party that has no base in the state. According to the affidavits filed before the Election Commission, Biju Ramesh of Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (AIADMK) tops the list of wealthiest candidates with a total asset of Rs 161 crores. Apart from this, his spouse and two children together hold assets worth Rs 116.82 crores.
Biju, who heads the Rajdhani group of companies, which included a chain of liquor bars having an annual turnover of over Rs 2,000 crores had added teeth to the corruption issue figuring prominently in the campaign by levelling bribery charges against two ministers in the Oommen Chandy Cabinet.
However, his contest is not against KM Mani, who resigned as finance minister following the allegation, or Excise Minister K Babu, against whom a court ordered registration of a case based on his revelation. The bar owner is contesting his maiden election from Thiruvananthapuram constituency.
Thomas Chandy, who has entered the fray at Kuttanad for a third stint as a Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate, has declared a total asset of Rs 92.37 crores. This includes movable assets worth Rs 65.8 crores. His wife and dependents together hold movable assets to the tune of total Rs 32.87 crores.
The CPM that heads the LDF itself has fielded several wealthy candidates this time. Leading the list is its Beypore candidate V K C Mammad Koya, who heads a business empire with a total turnover of Rs 1,500 crores.
Founder of Kozhikode-based VKC Group, the largest producer of footwear in South India, Koya is currently the Mayor of northern city of Kozhikode. The CPM does not consider him a capitalist as he had launched his business after he was thrown out from a matchstick manufacturing company for leading a struggle for better wages to the workers. They call him a born Communist.
CPM leaders believe Koya could prosper as an entrepreneur because he held the Communist ideology close to his heart. The 73-year-old leader has been active in the party even while pursuing his business. He had contested and won the election from Beypore in 2001.
The other wealthy candidates of the CPM are in Malappuram district. The party has fielded at least three businessmen with assets worth crores in the Muslim-dominated district as independents to end the hegemony of the Indian Union Muslim (IUML) in the district.
However, the credit for fielding maximum number of rich candidates in the current poll goes to the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). The Congress and its allies have more than 30 crorepati candidates. They include Labour Minister Shibhu Baby John, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, Urban Affairs Minister Manjalamkuzhi Ali, Education Minister P K Abdurabb, Public Works Minister Ibrahim Kunju, Industry Minister P K Kunhalikutty and MLA K Muralidharan.
Excise Minister Babu, who was accused of receiving bribe worth Rs 10 crores, has shown a total asset of Rs 99.04 lakhs in his name and Rs 1.63 crores in his wife’s name. The bar owner had alleged that Babu had amassed wealth worth Rs 200 crores after he became a minister in the current Oommen Chandy government.
Mani, who was accused of receiving bribe of Rs 1 crore, has shown movable assets worth Rs 15.08 lakhs and immovable assets worth Rs 1.74 crore in his name. His wife is shown to have movable and immovable assets worth a total of Rs 1.8 crores. The current market value of the property in the name of Mani is Rs 3.62 crores and that of his spouse is Rs 10 crores.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who was accused by solar scam accused Saritha S Nair of receiving bribe of Rs 1.92 crore, has no immovable assets in his name. His movable assets come to Rs 3.21 lakhs. His wife, who retired as a bank employee, holds total asset, which includes a house in the state capital, worth Rs 78 lakhs and son Rs 14.39 lakhs.
CPM chief ministerial prospect Pinarayi Vijayan is better off compared to Chandy. The senior leader, who has been heading the party till February 2015, has immovable assets worth Rs 52 lakhs besides movable assets to the tune of Rs 2.78 lakhs in his name.
His wife has movable and immovable assets worth Rs 52.41 lakhs, according to the affidavit. However, she has a loan of Rs 7.95 lakhs. Vijayan, who served as power minister for two years in the 1996-E K Nayanar ministry, is contesting assembly election after a gap of 17 years.
His senior colleague and Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan has no immovable assets in his name. The 93-year-old leader, who had headed the last LDF ministry, has movable assets worth Rs 1.02 lakhs. His wife, however, has a house valued at Rs 44.66 lakhs and movable assets worth Rs 16.70 lakhs.
The analysis of the affidavits shows even career politicians improving their wealth after winning elections. Many have bought land, built houses and acquired movable assets after they were elected.
The house built by Pinarayi Vijayan in 2009 had become controversial with a section of the media projecting it as a palatial building. While a Qatar-based youth was arrested for forwarding an email with a picture of a house said to be that of the CPM leader, some party members were suspended from the party after they went to see the house without the consent of the party.
Updated Date: May 03, 2016 16:01 PM