Politics pays: wealth of recontesting Assam MLAs rose 93% in 5 years
In India, politics is good business, offering great returns on investment that could put the volatile stock markets to shame. A recent report by the Assam Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Rights has revealed that the assets of the 99 legislators recontesting the state election have risen by an average of 93% over the past five years.
The MLAs each owned, on an average, Rs 1.33 crore worth of assets when they fought the election in 2011. The figure has now risen to Rs 2.58 crore. The details were obtained from the affidavits filed by the legislators for this and the last election.
A party-wise breakup reveals that the Bodoland People's Front, which accounts for nine of these MLAs, saw the highest growth of 193.52%, followed by the Congress with 111%, and Badaruddin Ajmal's AIUDF with 80%. The six Independents are at the bottom of the heap with an increase of only 18.34%.
Individually, the assets of the BJP candidate Pallab Lochan Das grew the most – by 5,355%. Interestingly, Das was a Congress MLA and switched over to the BJP just before the election. He is followed by the Congress candidate Sri Girindra Mallik, whose assets have risen by 2,075%. Another Congressman Sanjay Rai Subba from Naoboicha has seen his assets grow by over 11 crore since the last election.
Another key finding of the report is that the legislators with the highest individual growth in assets belong to the Congress. They include seven MLAs who are now with the BJP. However, in contrast to his partymen, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has seen a mere 12% growth in his assets.
Is this proof – if any was needed, that is – that people in power get rich faster than those outside of it?
The BJP's former Assam chief Siddhartha Bhattacharya rejects the suggestion that elected politicians get rich fast because they amass wealth through illegal means. “Over the years, if a man becomes eminent, his income is bound to increase. Everybody's assets have increased in the last five years, including that of journalists. Moreover, they file income tax returns. If it was illegal wealth, they wouldn't have made these declarations.”
Tasaduk Ariful Hussain, Assam coordinator of the ADR, doesn't buy this argument. “The economic growth rate of Assam is not higher than 8%, but the so called representatives of people have seen a growth of over 100% in their assets. Are they representing the people of Assam or themselves?”
Hussain insisted that such a spike in assets clearly indicates the legislators' wealth is not proportionate to their income.
He pointed out that 237 candidates in the fray are crorepatis, and 95 of them have not furnished their PAN details. Calling it a “great returns on investment scheme”, Hussain said the amount of money being splurged by the candidates to woo voters has made it impossible for a common man to contest. “If they spend crores on one election, they expect to get returns so they can contest elections in future as well. Election are so much centred on money power that people see it as an investment opportunity to get handsome returns,” he added.
Another report by the AEW and the ADR has revealed a 3% decline in the number of candidates with criminal records in Assam since the last election. Of the 1,062 candidates in the fray, only 72 have criminal records. In 2011, 99 of the 955 candidates faced criminal cases. However, there are far more candidates with serious criminal records now than in 2011 – 57 as against 37.
Edited by Mehraj D. Lone
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