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It's raining millionaires in Punjab assembly polls

It is estimated that most contestants in the fray for elections are each worth between Rs 10 mn and Rs 450 mn.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2007 13:43 IST

It is one of India's most affluent states, so it would only be in keeping with its status that elections in Punjab would be an expensive affair. And therefore it's not very surprising that the list of candidates includes scores of millionaires and billionaires too.

It cuts across party lines with estimates that most contesting candidates in the fray for the elections beginning on Feb 13 from the ruling Congress and the main opposition Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine are each worth between Rs10 million and Rs450 million.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh leads the pack of top candidates from major parties with disclosed family assets of nearly Rs1 billion.

Following close behind is rival Akali Dal leader Jagir Kaur with estimated assets of nearly Rs800 million. The former Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president is the Shiromani Akali Dal's candidate for the Bholath assembly seat from Kapurthala district.

Congress candidate from Ludhiana rural constituency Malkiat Singh Birmi has declared assets of over Rs110 million. Birmi, who was unceremoniously dropped as Punjab's chief parliamentary secretary three months ago, owns private aircraft even though he does not own any motor vehicle.

The Congress candidate from Adampur, Kanwalijit Singh Lally, has declared cash and assets of Rs72.9 million. Of this, the price of land owned by him is Rs 66 million.

His Akali Dal opponent Sarbjit Singh Makkar is also a millionaire.

Congress minister Jagjit Singh, who is contesting from Kartarpur, is lower in the list with Rs21. 2 million.

Ironically, Shiromani Akali Dal president and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is drawing criticism from his opponents for declaring his assets, along with his family's, to be less than Rs90 million.

Badal has palatial properties in Chandigarh, Haryana and a resort (Orbit Resorts) in Gurgaon. The combined market value of these could run into a few billions.

Even the immoveable assets of Amarinder Singh— who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala and owns palaces and other land— is said to be much more than the value shown.

"Much of the value of assets of contesting candidates is due to escalating land prices and their becoming millionaires on paper," said a state minister, whose own market value is said to be close to Rs 500 million.

Land prices in Punjab have hit the sky over the last three years with one acre of land fetching anything between Rs500,000 to Rs50 million.

A poor farmers election in a largely agrarian state? Forget it.

First Published: Jan 27, 2007 13:43 IST