New Delhi: The BJP and the SP are neck-to-neck in Uttar Pradesh — at least when it comes to fielding rich candidates this poll season. In the ongoing UP assembly elections, both rivals have as many as eight candidates each in the Rs 50 crore club, and two each in the Rs 100 crore club.
The candidates with the deepest pockets include a ‘nawab’ and a former journalist, and entrepreneurs with interests in hotels, realty and education. They have declared assets worth more than Rs 100 crore in their election affidavits.
In the sixth UP election phase due on 3 March, as many as 94 per cent candidates from the SP, 81 per cent from the BJP, 77 per cent from the BSP and 46 per cent from the Congress have declared themselves as crorepatis, according to data from Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
In contrast to the surging number of rich candidates, Uttar Pradesh continues on its low-income trajectory, standing at the bottom in per capita income rankings of 36 states and UTs. According to an RBI report, the state had per capita income of Rs 44,600 in 2020-21 — barely half of India’s national average of Rs 95,000.
For this report, ThePrint analysed the Rs 50 crore club, which comprises 22 candidates — eight each from the BJP and the SP, three from the BSP and one each from the Congress, the AAP and Rashtriya Parivartan Dal.
In the Rs 100 crore club are six candidates — two each from the BJP and SP, one from the Congress and one from the BSP.
Kazim Ali Khan (Naved Miyan), Congress, Rampur
A descendent of Rampur’s erstwhile nawab family, Naved Miyan is the richest candidate in this UP election, with declared assets of Rs 296 crore.
Last year, a local court gave its verdict on the division of the Rampur royal family’s assets worth more than Rs 2,650 crore.
An alumnus of Columbia University and owning property from Rampur to Bareilly to London, Naved Miyan is contesting from Rampur against SP heavyweight Azam Khan.
The nawab has been a five-time MLA, winning polls on BSP, SP and Congress tickets. His father Micky Miyan, too, was a five-time MP, who dominated Rampur politics after Independence.
Naved Miyan’s son is also contesting the polls this time, from the Suar seat, against Azam Khan’s son Abdullah.
Supriya Aron, SP, Bareilly Cantt
Supriya Aron has declared assets to the tune of Rs 157 crore. She is fighting on an SP ticket from Bareilly Cantt seat.
She is the wife of former Bareilly MP Praveen Singh. The couple joined the SP before ticket distribution for the polls last month.
Supriya worked as a journalist in Delhi at a news agency for 20 years before taking the plunge into politics in 2006 when she fought the Bareilly mayor election, and won.
Her husband, an advocate, has a law firm, as well as investment in real estate and hotels, and owns the brand Aura Furnishings. Her family member Sunita Aron is a journalist in Lucknow.
Supriya told ThePrint: “My entry into politics was not planned but accidental as mayor of Bareilly. Joining the SP was also accidental as the Congress is not in the fight anywhere.”
Amit Agarwal, BJP, Meerut Cantt
Agarwal is the third-richest candidate, worth Rs 148 crore, contesting from Meerut Cantt seat, which is dominated by the trader community. Meerut is one of the safest seats for the BJP — the party has been winning here for three decades.
This time, the party denied the ticket to four-time sitting MLA Satya Prakash Agarwal, another wealthy candidate, and owner of the Kailash Dairy brand.
Amit Agarwal is a prominent real estate developer in Meerut and has earned most of his money from realty firm AEDCO. An old RSS karyakarta, he started his career from the ABVP and went on to become state secretary during the Emergency.
He even went to jail with former BJP general secretary Ram Lal, and became MLA from Meerut in 1993. Veteran BJP leaders Kalyan Singh and Kalraj Mishra were his mentors who gave him his first ticket. But Laxmikant Bajpayee, who became BJP’s UP president, did not favour his candidature for the state polls in 2007.
An angry Agarwal left the BJP to join his cousin Naresh Agarwal’s party, then the SP. Four years later, in 2011, Agarwal was back in the BJP fold. This year, he is contesting the polls again with RSS backing.
Agarwal told ThePrint: “I had to wait for 20 years (he was last the MLA in 2002) to get a ticket but during the time, I did not leave social work. During Covid, our trucks kept running… to carry oxygen cylinders for Meerut’s people without any political motive.”
Devendra Nagpal, BJP, Naugawan
Fourth-richest candidate Devendra Nagpal is contesting from Naugawan seat in UP’s Amroha on a BJP ticket. He has declared assets of Rs 140 crore.
Nagpal is the owner of Skytech Group, which has a mall in Haryana’s Rohtak and realty projects in Noida and Ghaziabad’s Crossings Republik. He also owns hotels and the The Haveli restaurant.
Devendra and his brother Harish Nagpal, both former MPs, have been prominent players in Amroha politics. Harish defeated the late cricketer Chetan Chauhan in 2004 while fighting independently from the Amroha parliamentary seat. In 2002, Devendra too was an Independent MLA. He joined the RLD before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Harish was among the MPs who had voted for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a trust vote on the nuclear deal in 2008.
Devendra Nagpal told ThePrint: “It is in my area that electricity has always been available. The President also awarded our Nagar Palika for best practices in solid waste management and streetlighting.”
S.K. Sharma, BSP, Mathura
S.K. Sharma is the fifth candidate in the Rs 100 crore club, with declared assets of Rs 112 crore. He switched sides from the BJP to BSP a month before the assembly elections, after denial of ticket by the party, and is now fighting against UP Power Minister Shrikant Sharma from Mathura constituency.
In 2017, S.K. Sharma fought the state elections from Manth seat in the district, and lost by a margin of 6,000 votes. He complained that he had asked for a ticket from Mathura but the BJP leadership persuaded him to fight from Manth, promising to send him to the council if he lost. But, he said, the BJP did not honour its word. This time, the party has fielded Rajesh Choudhary from Manth.
Owner of SKS Group, Sharma has an empire of educational institutes spread from Bengal to Mathura to NCR. It comprises management and engineering colleges, besides pharmacy and ayurveda colleges. He also has interest in material-handling and the food processing industry. According to a close aide, his “company assets are worth more than Rs 1,000 crore”.
Rahul Yadav, SP, Sikandrabad
Son-in-law of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, Rahul Yadav has declared assets worth Rs 100 crore. He is married to Lalu’s fourth daughter Ragini, and studied hotel management in Switzerland. Rahul contested the 2017 UP election on an SP ticket from Sikandrabad, but was defeated by the BJP’s Bimla Solanki. This time, too, he is contesting from the seat on an SP ticket.
The other moneyed candidates include Rais Ahmed, the owner of Rassaz Group, which has an interest in multiple businesses in Mumbai. He has declared assets of Rs 73 crore and is fighting from UP’s Badaun Sadar on an SP ticket.
Yashpal Yadav, son of the SP’s Rajya Sabha MP Chandrapal Yadav, studied at the London School of Economics, and has businesses ranging from food processing to infrastructure. He has declared assets of Rs 70 crore and is contesting from Babina constituency.
Rajiv Bakshi, AAP candidate from Lucknow, is an educationist and hotelier with declared assets of Rs 56 crore. He also has three schools in the city.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)