Erstwhile royal and five-time former chief minister Virbhadra Singh of the Congress leads the pack of nine rich Lok Sabha candidates in Himachal Pradesh who have assets worth Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) or more.
There has been an average increase of 557 percent in the individual assets of eight candidates since they contested the 2004 elections, claims the NGO National Election Watch.
The NGO studied the affidavits of all the 31 candidates in the four parliamentary constituencies - Shimla, Kangra, Mandi and Hamirpur - in the state that go to polls May 13.
"Nine candidates have assets worth Rs.1 crore (Rs 10 million) and above, while five have liabilities of more than Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million)," he said.
"Congress leader and five-time former chief minister Virbhadra Singh leads the pack of the rich. His assets are over Rs 20.5 crore (Rs 205 million)," Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of the NGO, told IANS.
Virbhadra Singh belongs to the former royal family of Bushehr state.
According to Bairwal, the average asset value of a Congress candidate is Rs 60 million, while that of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is Rs 20 million and of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is Rs 79,000.
"There has been an average increase of 557 percent in the individual assets of eight candidates since they contested the last parliamentary elections in 2004," Bairwal said, adding that Virbhadra Singh's assets show an increase of 58 percent.
The analysis further revealed that five candidates, including Virbhadra Singh and Anurag Thakur (the BJP candidate for Hamirpur), have liabilities of more than Rs 2 million.
Regarding educational qualifications, 17 candidates are graduates or have higher degrees. The state has just 3.3 percent candidates with a criminal record against the nationwide average of 15.47 percent.
The fair sex may constitute 49 percent of the electorate in the state, but the Rashtrawadi Sena is the only party which has fielded a woman candidate - from Kangra. No woman figures in the candidates list of the two prominent parties - the BJP and the Congress, notes the NGO.