If it wasn’t for Dr Trilochan Sastry and his colleagues, we would never know how much our leaders are raking it in while we are not looking.
On Sunday, for instance, he came out with fresh figures (politicians would call it assault) that 79 candidates contesting in the second phase of the Karanataka polls scheduled for May 16 increased their assets by a combined 465 per cent.
In 2004, these politicians had declared assets worth a total of Rs 98.4 crore. Four years down, the figure has somehow swelled to an astonishing Rs 556.4 crore. He wisely leaves the interpretation of the numbers to you. “It is not for me to comment,” says the IIM-Bangalore professor.
It was through Dr Sastry’s PIL a few years ago that the Supreme Court made it compulsory for politicians to declare their assets and criminal records during the filing of nominations. “Information is empowerment. These are attempts to make parties stop giving poll tickets to criminals,” he says.
He formed a forum to spread awareness and, quite modestly, named it the Association for Democratic Reforms. The ADR carries out, among other things, ‘election watch’ to distribute background information on the candidates.
But has all this helped? “Not entirely. This may be a democracy but parties are not democratic. That’s why they continue to field criminals and the corrupt. So the electorate does not get to choose the ones they vote for,” he explains, sounding a trifle exasperated.
His latest victory over the netas is a directive from the Central Information Commission making political parties disclose their source of funding under the Right to Information Act. His next target is to put the Chhattisgarh polls under the scanner.