Poverty talk is common; wealth is taboo — even when crorepati candidates (millionaires, billionaires) are on the rise in elections today. There is no doubt whatsoever that our elections are conditioned by wealth, and the rich are thriving on the benefits drawn from their money power. Ironically however, in our people’s democracy, no calls for fair elections are considered credible unless they are accompanied by cries for reforms in the role of wealth and wealthy candidates in the elections. Chances are that the Indian elections of 2009 might get caught up in this credibility trap.
In the first phase of elections, data (affidavits) available of 1440 candidates out of a total of 1715, compiled and analysed by the National Election Watch, is revealing: There are 193 crorepatis contesting elections in this phase; they have increased from 9 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2009. Congress has 45, followed by BJP and BSP, with 30 and 22 respectively. All parties, including independents, share this burden. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh have a majority of them. Their total assets go as high as 173, 125, 89, 72, 56, 45, 30 crores. Neither the earth, nor the sky is the limit. And the declared assets may just reveal a partial picture, considering the fact that most of them (979 candidates) do not even bother to have a permanent account number (PAN), which is necessary for filing annual income tax returns.