New Delhi: Despite Bihar being one of the country’s poorest states, the three-phased assembly election has thrown up a high number of crorepati candidates.
According to data collated by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) based on candidate affidavits filed with the Election Commission, the average income of Bihar’s affluent candidates is Rs 1 crore in phase one, going up to Rs 3.86 crore in phase two. Details for phase three candidates are still being collated, an ADR official told ThePrint.
In the first phase, which takes place on 28 October, 33 per cent (375 candidates) of the 1,064 candidates have assets worth above Rs 1 crore.
In the second phase, which will take place 3 November, 59 per cent (258 candidates) of the 1,464 candidates are crorepatis.
Of all the phase two candidates, the majority of them are from the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) which has 45 crorepatis, followed by the BJP’s 41 candidates.
According to the affidavits filed with the Election Commission, out of 437 candidates for 94 seats which go to polls in phase two, there are 258 crorepati candidates with an average income of Rs 3.86 crore.
Bihar has one of the lowest per capita incomes in India. In the 2018 financial year, the state recorded the lowest value at Rs 43,822 against the national average of Rs 1,26,406, according to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme implementation.
Phase two’s rich list
Congress’ Sanjeev Singh, who is fighting the Vaishali seat, is the richest candidate in the second phase of the election with Rs 56.6 crore. Singh’s name cropped up in the Bihar engineering scam during the CBI’s investigation in 1997, along with Brijbihari Prasad, a former minister and a close aide of Lalu Prasad. The trial case is in court.
At one time, Singh was in-charge of the party’s IT cell in Bihar. He was also elected youth Congress chief in the state, but wasn’t given the post due to the scam controversy.
With assets worth Rs 49 crore, RJD’s Deo Kumar Chaurasia is the second richest candidate. He is contesting the Haripur constituency. Once a close associate of CM Nitish Kumar, Chaurasia recently joined the RJD from the Janata Dal (United).
Anunay Singh, another Congress candidate, has assets worth Rs 46 crore and is fighting the Muzaffarpur Paru seat where BJP’s Ashok Singh is the incumbent MLA.
Among JDU’s richest candidates is Sunil Kumar (Rs 42 crore), who recently retired from the Indian Police Service as an additional director general of police. Considered an officer close to CM Nitish Kumar, he joined the JDU just after he retired.
The richest candidate in the election so far is RJD’s Anant Singh, the don-turned-politician who is currently in jail on UAPA charges. Singh, who is contesting from Mokama, has declared assets worth Rs 68 crore.
On the other end of the spectrum is Vikki Ram, a candidate of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) contesting the Baru Raj seat with zero assets. Randhir Kumar Paswan, with Rs 8,000 worth of assets, is fighting with a ticket from the Plurals Party. In Bihpur, another Plurals Party candidate declared assets worth Rs 10,000.
Political experts ThePrint spoke to say the trend is surprising for Bihar given its economic state.
“In Bihar, this trend of muscle man and money power is increasing day by day in every election. Surprisingly, for a state which has no industry, where income is low, and is one of the poorest states, candidates’ assets are rising … criminalisation of politics is expanding,” said Trilochan Sastry, ADR’s chairman.
D.M. Diwakar, the former director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, said that a lot of the money has come from an increase in land costs. “In recent years, criminals have invested in land, became developers, made malls and shopping complexes … this has made them crorepatis. And this is only the declared money … so imagine the amount of benami and undeclared money (of these people).”
Sastry said the reason for this spurt is due to a lack of an effective law to curtail this. “We only campaign among the public not to vote for criminals. The only way out is to restrict money power and muscle power through the Supreme Court or (if) people decide not to vote for such candidates,” he added.