<b1>The influence of money – and not ideologies – has perceptibly gone up in the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha. There are more crorepatis in the fray than ever before.
In the 2004 elections to the 14th Lok Sabha, 9 per cent of the candidates were crorepatis. Five years later, the figure stands at 15.5 per cent, according to National Election Watch data.
The data covering the contestants for 401 parliamentary seats in the first three phases and in Delhi and Rajasthan in the fourth phase state that of the 5,573 candidates in the fray, 862 have assets of more than Rs 1 crore. The data also show sharp increases in the assets of those, who got elected in 2004. About 125 common candidates in 2004 and 2009 account for an average asset increase of over 130 per cent.In Delhi, the increase since 2004 is 755 per cent, while it is about 450 per cent in Mumbai.
Most of the super-rich candidates come from the south and west-based regional parties. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Telegu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh account for 77 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively, of crorepati candidates, while in Karnataka, about 63 per cent of the Janata Dal (United) candidates are crorepatis against the BJP 45 per cent.
In the west, about 90 per cent of the candidates put up by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are crorepatis, while the figure for the Nationalist Congress Party is 50 per cent. In Goa, about 33 per cent of all the candidates are crorepatis.
Professor Arun Kumar of the School of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who conducted studies on the role of money in electoral politics, said, “The evil in the electoral politics of the south is money power, and not muscle power like in Bihar and UP.”
However, the national parties are not lagging far behind. Of the 356 Congress candidates, close to 50 per cent are crorepatis, while the BJP’s figure is about 40 per cent. But the Left parties have the lowest number of crorepatis in the fray. The Bahujan Samaj Party, which has the richest contestant this time – Deepak Bhardwaj worth Rs 603 crore from west Delhi – has 25.6 per cent crorepati candidates.
Gandhians and freedom fighters Shambu Nath Sharma and L.C. Jain said, “The day is not too far when Parliament will become an exclusive club of crorepatis and criminals.”