Indian Express
Avinash Nair

Of the 125 MLAs in the fray again this time, the minister clocked the highest increase, as per ADR data

Of the 125 MLAs in Gujarat who have been fielded again by their parties, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi clocked the highest increase in assets, at 721 per cent, in the last five years, according to data that the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) published on Tuesday. The top five such legislators are from the BJP.

Sanghavi and his spouse’s assets rose from Rs 2.12 crore in 2017 to Rs 17.42 crore in 2022. The minister who has income from a diamond business is fighting to retain the constituency of Majura in Surat. Compared to Sanghavi, the assets of Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel increased 58 per cent from Rs 5.19 crore in 2017 to Rs 8.22 crore in 2022.

Apart from Sanghavi, the other four legislators who have seen their assets and those of their family members rise the most in five years are Rural Development minister Arjunsinh Chauhan, the candidate from Mehmedabad seat in Kheda district whose family’s assets rose 573 per cent; Shailesh Bhabhor from Limkheda in Dahod district (481 per cent increase in assets), Ramanlal Patkar from Umbergaon (335 per cent rise in assets), and Manisha Vakil from Vadodara City (308 per cent increase in assets). While Umbergaon and Limkheda are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs), Vadodara City is reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) communities.

Of the 125 MLAs who are contesting again this time, 71 are from the BJP, 50 are from the Congress, one is from the Samajwadi Party (SP). and three are Independents. The assets of 105 legislators — 59 BJP MLAs, 43 Congress legislators, the SP MLA and the Independents — grew while those of the others declined.

Among the Congress candidates, Imran Khedawala, who is contesting from Jamalpur-Khadia in Ahmedabad City, saw his assets rise 224 per cent. He had assets worth Rs 46.86 lakh in 2017 and now he is worth Rs 1.51 crore. The Congress MLA from Danta in Banaskantha district, Kanti Kharadi, has seen his assets grow 252 per cent from Rs 32.03 lakh in 2017 to Rs 1.12 crore. Vadgam (Banaskantha) MLA Jignesh Mevani who contested the 2017 elections as an Independent saw his assets rise from Rs 10.25 lakh to Rs 35.48 lakh.

Jignesh Mevani who contested the 2017 elections as an independent and is now contesting as a Congress candidate has seen a Rs 246 per cent growth in his assets from just Rs 10.25 lakh he held in 2017.

The average assets growth of the BJP MLAs was 39 per cent while that of their Congress counterparts in the list was 26 per cent. The average size of the assets of BJP MLAs contesting the elections is Rs 11.9 crore. The figure is Rs 8.11 crore for Congress legislators.

“The close and alarming nexus between money power and muscle power has got so ingrained in our electoral system that citizens are left hostage to the current situation. Money and muscle power hurt the principles of free and fair elections, participatory democracy and a level playing field. The present circumstances demand an extensive deliberation by the voters so that the sanctity of elections is not ridiculed by tenacious entry of tainted candidates and candidates with abnormal multiplication of assets,” ADR said in its report.

Bhupendra Patel-led Cabinet

Among the important Cabinet ministers, Finance Minister Kanubhai Patel saw his family’s assets rise by 89 per cent in the last five years. The assets of Education Minister Jitu Vaghani, who is re-contesting from Bhavnagar West, rose 82 per cent. The assets of Tribal Development Minister Naresh Patel grew 148 per cent.

The lone SP candidate on the list, Kandhal Jadeja, saw his assets grow 33 per cent. Jadeja recently quit the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to move to the SP. The two Independents on the list are Dhavalsinh Rana (183 per cent increase in assets value) and Madhu Shrivastav (8 per cent rise). Rana is a sitting MLA who was earlier with the Congress while Shrivastav was in the BJP. Both were denied tickets.

Among the 20 who saw the values of their assets decline are Forest Minister Kiritsinh Rana (4 per cent) and Agriculture Minister Raghavji Patel (46 per cent). The highest decline in assets value was registered by BJP candidate Kuber Dindor who saw his financial worth fall 79 per cent. Congress MLAs Baldevji Thakor and Geniben Thakor reported a decline in their assets by 46 per cent and 42 per cent respectively.

The Indian Express had reported earlier that the BJP candidate in Mansa seat in Gandhinagar, JS Patel, is the richest candidate in these elections with assets worth Rs 661.28 crore.

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