Candidate in Andhra Pradesh by-election puts his worth close to Rs. 6,800 crore, the highest such figure declared in the country so far
“I wanted to be honest,” G. Deepak Reddy, candidate in the June 12 by-election to the Rayadurg constituency in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district, told The Hindu. “So I stated the facts.”
The facts are as startling as the honesty. The 39-year-old Telugu Desam Party candidate's election affidavit states his worth as being close to Rs. 6,800 crore, all told. That is the highest figure ever declared by a candidate in Indian elections — Parliament or Assembly — since the practice of filing affidavits with these details was enforced in 2004.
The figure is almost four-and-a-half times the next in the Top 10 list. That was Rs. 1,522.5 crore declared by Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, the former Maharaja of Mysore, in the 2004 Lok Sabha election.
Interestingly, five of the nine asset-toppers, after Mr. Deepak Reddy (see Table), lost the elections they contested. Mr. Reddy's fate will be known on June 15. If he wins, he will represent the rather poor electorate of Rayadurg — in Anantapur, a district that is amongst the worst-hit by the agrarian crisis and farm suicides. Andhra Pradesh now has the distinction of taking the first and tenth rank in the Top 10, with Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy bringing up the rear.
No less startling is that Mr. Deepak Reddy's affidavit reports his annual income as just over Rs. 3.27 lakh, and that of his wife at just under Rs. 2 lakh. Remarkable figures on a worth of Rs. 6,800 crore. “One is fixed assets,” he explained to us on June 7, while on the campaign trail. “The other is income. There's a difference.”
A very substantial difference. The income stated is from his Income Tax return for the assessment year 2009-10 (that is, financial year 2008-09). The affidavit carries no figures for the two subsequent financial years. It does state that Mr. Deepak Reddy has an MBA from Widener University in Philadelphia, U.S. The TDP candidate is also the son-in-law of J.C. Prabhakar Reddy, Congress leader and ex-Municipal Chairman of Tadipatri in Anantapur — whose brother is J.C. Diwakar Reddy, Congress MLA and former long-time Minister.
Mr. Deepak Reddy explains that the huge figure comes from the stake he has in property, some of it embroiled in disputes. And also that “he has agreements with some parties who I am helping in the battle to recover land grabbed by the government.” Among the property parcels he lists in an annexure to the affidavit, the top three are worth Rs. 3,128 crore, Rs. 943 crore and Rs. 529 crore. Just the value of the property listed in the annexure (some of which are unregistered) comes to Rs. 6,781 crore. Much of that is under litigation. Apart from these, he has assets worth around Rs. 20 crore. He explains that his main interests “are in mining.”
Mr. Deepak Reddy has other things on his affidavit besides an MBA. He has had charges of trespass and criminal intimidation filed against him. But he has obtained an interim stay from the Andhra Pradesh High Court on proceedings.
There was one candidate from Tamil Nadu who showed a higher figure than the former Mysore Maharaja. J. Mohanraj, who contested from Chennai South in 2009, gave a figure of Rs. 1,977.5 crore in his affidavit. This should have made him No. 2 in the Top 10 list painstakingly compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), New Delhi. However, Mr. Mohanraj, of the “Jebamani Janata Party,” subsequently explained that he had faked facts in his affidavit, in a deliberate act of protest. As he told The Hindustan Times (May 12, 2009), he did this “as a ‘patriotic duty' to show how leaders were ‘making a mockery' of the Supreme Court judgment and violating all electoral norms.” Since the leaders were understating their assets, he deliberately overstated his own worth (less than Rs. 15 lakh at the time) in the hope that somebody would take action. Apparently, no one did.
For the smaller parties in the fray, the entry of billionaires is not a matter of humour, though. Across the 19 constituencies that have by-elections in Andhra Pradesh on June 12, they complain of how the entry of the big moneybags transforms the game, whether the richest win or not.