New Delhi

It is a fight between Rs 50 crore and Rs 5,000. BJP candidate Rajpal Singh in Sriniwaspuri has assets worth Rs 50 crore, while independent candidate Gayatri Devi has a measly Rs 5,000 against her name. "Devi will not even get 100 votes," declared Singh. The statement isn't borne of financial arrogance, only the lawyer's optimism as a veteran BJP activist with the advantage of having the prime minister to inspire voters with.

However, 37-year-old Devi, who has studied only up to Class XII, remained unfazed. "People do not vote for a moneyed man, only for those who help them," she countered. The social worker hopes to leverage her reputation as a social worker against Singh's rupees and his party at the hustings.

Democracy can be quirky, slating billionaires on the same voting machine as humbly endowed rivals. Singh vs Devi for a place in the South Delhi Municipal Corporation is intriguing, but the richest in the fray is Geeta Yadav in Mehrauli. Contesting for an SDMC seat as an independent backed by Swaraj India, Yadav's affidavit puts her assets at Rs 84 crore, the highest among the 2,537 men and women aspiring to the corporation seats. Yadav's rival, BSP's Poonam, only has Rs 30,000 in cash and Rs 1,000 in a bank account though she has jewellery worth Rs 3 lakh and her husband, Rs 7 lakh.

"I may be the richest candidate, but my campaign style is very simple," claimed 46-year-old Yadav. "My husband and I ride a scooter, and I have no paid helpers." But it is a clever ploy, because the housewife-politician herself confided, "Mehrauli's people are frustrated with candidates who come in big vehicles to seek votes and disturb them." Yadav thinks she will win handsomely, not because of her money, but the voters' confidence in her, not to forget that Congress is hobbled by two rebel candidates and BJP is beset by infighting.

Like Yadav, her rival Poonam, 36, too entered politics because of deep unhappiness over the non-existent civic services. "My people are my assets," asserted Poonam, an uneducated, self-made woman who runs a boutique. She is assured that her involvement in social work will see her through.

Some municipal seats have gaping financial disparities. In Sadar Bazar, Mohammad Usman, the Congress nominee with assets of Rs 57 crore, is taking on Naveen Sharma, an independent with a less than Rs 35,000. In Vishnu Garden, Congress candidate Dhanwant Chandela, worth Rs 55 crore, is tussling with a rival who has just Rs 7,000. And in Preet Vihar, the richest candidate has Rs 42 crore against one of his rivals' Rs 12,000.

According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, there are 74 candidates who possess assets worth over Rs 10 crore, 106 candidates, over Rs 5 crore, and 517 candidates, over Rs 1 crore.

At the other end of the spectrum, Priya Jha, independent candidate from Sant Nagar, and Sunita Gill, NCP candidate from Adarsh Nagar, do not have a single rupee to their name.

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