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Himachal election: Boom in assets of 60 MLAs

Among the 60 incumbent MLAs contesting again in Himachal Pradesh, their combined assets have increased from Rs314.3 crore in 2012 to Rs566.9 crore this year, a jump of 80%.

HimachalPradeshElection2017 Updated: Nov 08, 2017 13:41 IST
Harry Stevens
Musicians play traditional instruments at a Congress rally in Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. (Aqil Khan / HT Photo)
Musicians play traditional instruments at a Congress rally in Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. (Aqil Khan / HT Photo)

The combined assets of Himachal Pradesh legislators who are running for re-election in Thursday’s assembly polls have increased substantially since 2012, an analysis of official data shows.

Among the 60 incumbents contesting again, their combined assets have increased from Rs314.3 crore in 2012 to Rs566.9 crore this year, a jump of 80%. These figures are derived from the candidates’ affidavits filed with Election Commission and research by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-partisan group that advocates for government transparency.

A candidate’s wealth can increase even when he doesn’t acquire new assets. In many cases, the assets are in form of land, and at least a part of the increase can be on account of a spike in land prices. Of those whose assets rose significantly, one MLA stands out.

In 2012, Yadvinder Goma declared assets worth Rs5.2 lakh. Five years after winning the Scheduled Caste-reserved constituency of Jaisinghpur, the 31-year-old Congress MLA’s assets are worth nearly Rs1.2 crore, an increase of about 2189%.

His acquisitions include Rs52 lakh of agricultural land, a Rs50 lakh residential property and, together with his wife, 300 grams of gold worth Rs6 lakh. In his affidavit, Goma declared that he earns money from agriculture and from his job as an MLA, which pays Rs55,000 per month.

Goma has been less active in assembly sessions than the average Himachal MLA, having spoken in two debates and asked 88 questions. The average MLA spoke in nine debates and asked 117 questions, according to PRS Legislative Research. Goma did not respond to HT’s requests to comment on his assets and assembly participation.

The largest absolute increase was achieved by Balbir Singh Verma, who grew his assets from Rs41.2 crore in 2012 to Rs90.7 crore this year. Verma’s political allegiances have also changed. After winning the Chopal constituency as an independent in 2012, he is running on a BJP ticket this year.

Like Goma’s, the bulk of Verma’s assets increase came in the form of property. The value of his commercial property holdings alone increased by more than Rs45 crore. Verma also participated in fewer debates — five — than the average MLA. However, he asked 215 questions, more than the average MLA. Verma also did not respond to requests to comment on his assets increase.

Nearly all the incumbents running for re-election saw an increase in their assets since 2012. Yet two of them did not.

Among the pair is Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh, whose assets declined from Rs34 crore to Rs30.5 crore. The other was Dhani Ram Shandil, the social justice minister, whose assets declined from Rs2.1 crore to Rs1.1 crore. Neither responded to HT’s request for comments.

The 26 BJP candidates running for re-election saw their combined assets rise from Rs104.9 crore to Rs224.1 crore, an increase of 114%. That’s a better return than their 33 Congress counterparts, whose assets jumped from Rs208 crore to Rs340.9 crore, a 64% bump.