Millennium Post

Crorepatis by plenty

Election is the biggest festival in the world’s largest democratic country. It’s a Herculean task for officials engaged in process of conducting free and fair polls. Experts in political affairs equate the process of holding general elections with that of Europe, United States, Canada and Australia all put together. The number of polling booths all over the country adds up to about 9 lakh and to manage these polling booths about five million election personnel and an additional two million security personnel have to be mobilised. Taking state and local elections into account, the figures become more staggering.

With the increase in the number of electorates, candidates are also coming up in hoards to taste electoral success. The power to rule over administrative machinery as well as masses in their particular constituency may be one of the factors for choosing politics as mainstream career for many of the party volunteers engaged in social welfare works across the country. No doubt, after being elected as a representative at any level of governance (Lok Sabha member, MLA, corporator, etc), one gets special treatment for the time he remains in office. The power to rule is one of the factors that is drawing many millionaires to join politics, says MP Singh, celebrated political scientist.
Like ballot papers, the old style of politics has become a passé now. We are in the era of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). Mizoram became the first state to exercise VVPAT in the recently held assembly polls on 25 November.

Election Commission must be credited for enforcing laws in a stringent manner to eradicate muscle power from electioneering and putting a curb on overflow of money power during poll campaigns. With the developments in the legal course, it would not be wrong to say that the process to phase out tainted candidates from contesting polls has begun. The stories about capturing of booths using muscle power has almost become extinct now.

With the participation of more and more crorepati candidates in all tiers of elections (Lok Sabha, assembly, civic bodies, panchayat, etc), the course of politics is set to change in the coming days, says Singh, who is now a fellow at the Centre for Multi-level Federalism.

Not agreeing with the view that millionaire candidates will be a better choice for democracy, Singh says money is the fuel of greed. Candidates with cultural and ideological orientation will only ensure a healthier political system in our country.

The data released by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in association with National Election Watch (NEW) reveals that assembly elections are flooded with millionaire candidates. In the five state assembly elections there are more than 1,000 crorepati candidates in the poll fray. Madhya Pradesh stands on the top with a total of 350 candidates trying their luck in the assembly election, followed by Rajasthan (346), Delhi (265), Mizoram (75) and Chhattisgarh government at the bottom with just 25.

Even the newly-formed Aam Aadmi Party has as many as 11 candidates who are worth more than a crore with RK Puram candidate Shazia Ilmi leading the pack with Rs 30 crore. It seems the Delhi assembly elections do not have aam aadmi roots, economically and financially at least, including party convener Arvind Kejriwal.

The big question is whether these crorepatis are enticed by politics or social welfare? Would they meet the expectations of masses, if they somehow manage to secure a berth in the assembly? In answer to this question MP Singh says, entry of millionaires will open the doors to corruption only. ‘Most of these candidates have their own businesses, which will be definitely be their prime concern. Countries like Japan, South Korea and many East Asian countries are richer, but none of these countries is as big a democracy as India. For a healthy democracy, fair electoral process is must,’ adds Singh.

In the 15th Lok Sabha there are more than 50 crorepati parliamentarians. The number of millionaires in national parties has increased manifold in the recent past. Percentage wise, Congress tops the list with 71, followed by BJP (51 per cent). Singh claims that the percentage of millionaire candidates in other regional parties is almost 100 per cent.

The entry of millionaire candidates has affected the morale of dedicated workers. They are at the receiving end as even after following the principles of the party for years, they do not get party tickets. The party high command appeases its party workers by giving excuses that their experience is needed to nurture the party.

Singh further says that the era of socialists is phasing out. The influence of corporate sector has increased at every level of politics, which is  not a healthy sign.

Taking note of Uttar Pradesh assembly election, which was held in 2012, we can say that fat bank balances have been instrumental in drafting many victories. When the election results and the details of elected representatives are analysed, it is seen that nearly 28 per cent candidates who had assets worth Rs 5 crore or more registered victories in their constituencies. In sharp contrast, barely 1 per cent candidates who had assets worth less than Rs 20 lakh managed to secure their berths.

In a state where the margin of victory has traditionally been wafer thin, the power of money in many parts seems to have played a crucial role. Sixty out of the 217 candidates who declared assets worth Rs 5 crore or more managed to convert their candidature into electoral victory; out of 1,660 candidates with less than Rs 20 lakh to their credit, only 19 could turn the voters in their favour. In the current UP assembly, there are 271 crorepatis out of the 403 candidates elected to power in 2012.

During Gujarat assembly polls there were 301 crorepati candidates out of 9,400 contestants, while in Himachal Pradesh there were 146 crorepati candidates. In the Karnataka assembly there are 200 millionaire representatives.
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