Extreme inequality in India is evidently not restricted to the general population, going by an analysis of the assets of Chief Ministers.
It extends to top politicians as well, with the richest Chief Minister found to be 680 times wealthier than the ‘poorest’ one.
The richest Chief Minister, Telugu Desam Party leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, has declared assets worth ₹177 crore, while the ‘poorest’ Chief Minister, CPI (M) leader and Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, had total assets worth all of ₹26 lakh. According to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh are the second and third richest CMs, with assets worth ₹129 crore and ₹48 crore respectively.
The second ‘poorest’ was Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, with assets worth ₹30 lakh. People’s Democratic Party leader and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was also among the three CMs with the least assets. She had declared assets valued at ₹55 lakh.
As for those with criminal cases pending against them, 35%, or 11 of the 31 CMs, have criminal charges against them.
Further, 26% CMs have declared serious criminal cases, including related to murder, attempt to murder, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property and criminal intimidation, among others.
In terms of educational qualification, 10% of the 31 CMs are 12th pass, 39% graduate, 32% graduate professional, 16% postgraduate and 3% doctorate.
Asked to comment on the data, retired IAS officer and convener of Forum for Electoral Integrity M.G. Devasahayam said leaders who own ancestral property, come from land-owning families, and have earnings from lawfully running businesses are not a cause for concern. Only cases where the assets have increased sharply over a period of time should be considered seriously, he added.
“In 2002, the Supreme Court made it mandatory for candidates to submit details of their assets and criminal cases, if any. Though that has been followed, the necessary amendment to the Representation of the People Act to restrain those with criminal and corruption cases from contesting in elections has not come into force. That is the need of the hour,” Mr. Devasahayam said.
Former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami said assets earned through legal means need not be taken up, but monitoring of the candidates’ assets is a must.
“As for serious criminal charges, if the chargesheet is filed against the candidate at least a year before the polls, he should be disqualified until proved innocent,” he added.