The intent behind the Conduct of Election (Amendment) Rules 2019 notified by the Election Commission of India on February 26 that all candidates for the Lok Sabha election beginning on April 11, are obliged to file their income tax returns of the past five years and provide details of foreign assets held by them, is undoubtedly well intentioned. But instead of enlightening electors, disclosure of the wealth and assets of these aspiring servants of the people is causing widespread heart-burn.
According to the Delhi-based Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR, estb.1999), 83 percent of 521 (out of the total strength of 543) members of the 16th Lok Sabha (2009-14) were crorepatis (with declared wealth/assets of Rs.100 lakh). The ADR report released on March 18, also helpfully discloses that more than 33 percent of MPs of the 16th Lok Sabha have criminal cases pending against them.
Some further and better particulars about parliamentary service, surely the country’s most lucrative profession: the assets of 153 MPs, who were re-elected in 2014, grew by 142 percent, averaging Rs.13.32 crore per MP, assets unmatched by your correspondent after 40 years in the media.
The latest wealth declarations by heirs and heiresses — most of them with no record of gainful employment — of political dynasties proliferating countrywide, indicate that the alchemy discovered by the political class is still working. The 2019 declared wealth/value of assets of fourth generation head of the Congress party Rahul Gandhi is Rs.16 crore; Nikhil Gowda (28, grandfather prime minister, father chief minister of Karnataka): Rs.74 crore; Supriya Sule (father former Union defence and agriculture minister and chief minister of Maharashtra): Rs.113 crore; Kanimozhi (daughter of five time chief minister of Tamil Nadu): Rs.10 crore. It’s a mile long list of billionaire progeny of politicians — telling evidence that in post-independence India’s hijacked economy, politics is the best business.