Source: 
India Today
Author: 
Date: 
13.02.2022
City: 
New Delhi

The entry into the elite club of elected representatives has never been easy. The last twenty years' data shows that with the menacing rise in the influence of money power, this has gotten only tougher.

The recent election data show that even as parties and their patrons project themselves as "gareebon ka meseeha" (the messiah of the poor), there is a marked preference for nominating rich candidates to contest in elections. In other words, while politicians hold forth on the emergence of two Indias - rich & poor- there is little follow-up action to bridge the widening wealth gap in selecting candidates in elections.

The 2019 Lok Sabha winner candidates are worth more than about Rs.112 billion combined, while elected candidates of the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 2017 hold around Rs. 23 billion in total.

On average, a winner of the last Lok Sabha election was worth about Rs. 21 crores, while a sitting MLA of U.P. in the 2017 election was worth about Rs. 6 crores. This figure arrived after the analysis of the documents of 539 Members of Parliament (out of 542), and 396 (out of 403) UP's sitting Members of Legislative Assembly.

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, the figures of "crorepati" candidates are based on their affidavits submitted to the Election Commission. A review of declared assets of candidates shows there has been a jump from just 11 per cent crorepati candidates in 2004, to 29 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. What is even more disconcerting is that wealthy candidates are often more likely to win elections.

While 29 per cent of all candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections had declared assets of Rs. 1 crore or more, the winners' list had 88 per cent crorepatis.

According to the ADR, "The chance of winning for a crorepati candidate in the Lok Sabha 2019 is 21 per cent, whereas the chance of winning for a candidate with assets less than Rs. 1 crore is one per cent." In other words, a crorepati candidate was 21 times more likely to win elections than the one with modest means.

In 2009, however, the difference was not as stark. While the chance of winning for a crorepati candidate was 25 per cent, it was 3.4 per cent for those with declared assets of less than Rs. 1 crore. In other words, the crorepati candidate was nearly eight times more likely to win.

Uttar Pradesh

An almost similar trend was observed in the previous Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. The state witnessed a huge spurt in the number of crorepati candidates contesting the state elections and a marked increase in the number of wealthier winners over the years. The crorepati contestants rose from eight per cent in 2007 to 20 per cent and 30 per cent in the 2012 and 2017 assembly elections, respectively.

There was a quantum jump of crorepatis in the winners' list - from 32 per cent in 2007 to 79 per cent, ten years later.

Money is the crucial determinant for the allocation of seats. Between 2007 to 2017, the proportion of crorepati candidates among major parties - the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Congress - has increased three to fourfold.

Numbers analysed by India Today's Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) show that the higher the candidates' net assets, the greater their chances of winning. In 2007, for instance, 10 per cent of the candidates with net assets less than Rs. 1 crore won the elections.

It was 29 per cent for candidates with net assets worth Rs. 1-5 crore, and 27 per cent for candidates with over Rs. 5 crores of declared net assets. This gap widened in the last ten years, with the winning percentage of candidates with net assets below Rs. 1 crore dropping to less than three per cent.

If one looks at the list of candidates announced for the first two phases of elections this time, the reliance on money power in Uttar Pradesh politics has gone up several notches. For instance, in the second phase of the election, 98 per cent of all the BJP contestants are crorepatis, followed by the SP (92 per cent), the BSP (84 per cent), the Rashtriya Lok Dal (67 per cent), and the Congress party (57 per cent).

Can Our democracy afford the disconnect between the modest means of "janata" and the swelling assets of their representatives?

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