Five astrologers, two beggars, two story-tellers, one zamindar, one revolutionary and one consultant on the building of pyramids are among the 8,163 candidates who contested this general election. But these unusual candidates are the tiny minority in a field that is systematically seeing more businesspersons and fewer lawyers. A significant 16 per cent of all candidates are big business owners.
This election is the first where all candidates are required to mention their professions in their affidavits. The Association for Democratic Reforms made the key information in these affidavits searchable through their website myneta.info, and shared the data on professions with The Hindu.
The Hindu further analysed and sorted the professions into 25 main categories. Not all candidates have complied fully with the directive; nearly 450 candidates’ professions were either left blank, or were vague or incomprehensible.
Of the rest, farmers are still the largest category (over 17%), while those who are both agriculturists and run a business form another 4% and agricultural labourers another 2%. Data compiled by PRS Legislative Research shows that farmers comprised 23% of the first Lok Sabha and have ranged from 25% to nearly 50% of Lok Sabha members over the decades.Lawyers made up more than a third of the first Lok Sabha but this number has declined over the years, and lawyers made up less than a tenth of the 15th Lok Sabha. In this election, they account for less than 6% of all candidates. “Lawyers made up a big part of the Constituent Assembly and the early Lok Sabhas. But there has been a decline in the integrity of the profession, and concurrently, its role in nation-building,” Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of the National Election Watch and ADR, said. .
In 2014, businessmen form a large part of the contestants with close to 19 per cent of the candidates listing business as profession. The Hindu split businessmen by those who run bigger businesses and those who run small businesses like tyre puncture shops and vegetable stands. Over 1,250 men running big businesses are contesting this election, and another 3% of candidates are running small businesses. Businessmen formed around 10% of the outgoing Lok Sabha.
Cash flow sectors
Mr. Chhokar said he has found an increase not just in big business interests among those contesting for Parliament, but in three specific sectors — education, construction and mining. “These are all sectors with a high cash flow component,” Mr. Chhokar pointed out.
Nearly a 100 candidates working in real estate are contesting, with Tamil Nadu alone home to over a third of all builders contesting this election.
‘Social workers’ formed another 10% of candidates contesting this election, while those who listed themselves as full-time politicians formed only about 4%. With the average age of the 15th Lok Sabha over 50 years, over 7% of candidates are, unsurprisingly, retired.
(This is the last in a series of analytical stories on electoral data)