Bihar Politicians’ Fortunes Thrive From Election to Election

Buxar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an election rally in Buxar on Monday. PTI photo (PTI10_26_2015_000221B)

Buxar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an election rally in Buxar on Monday. PTI photo (PTI10_26_2015_000221B)

Does it make sense to seek a career in politics in India? If the annual increment in official assets holdings for candidates contesting for second time in the present Bihar election is any indication, then the answer is a definite Yes.

Consider this: there are 160 candidates who contested the latest elections, who had won during 2010. The average holdings of these candidates in 2010 was Rs. 86,41,477; this jumped to Rs 2,57,99, 697 in 2015. This implies an annualised increment of 24.4%. Seventeen of these 160 candidates who re-contested were women. Interestingly, average assets for these women candidates was Rs 5,23,41,807 which is higher than their male counterparts, with average assets of Rs 2,26,44342. Between 2010 and 2015, these women candidates have registered an annualised increase in their assets by 29.7%.

Past data also reveals a similar pattern. During 2005 and 2010, there were 134 candidates in Bihar, who contested for both these elections. For these candidates, average assets during jumped in five years from Rs 32,43,873, to Rs 70,09,147 during the 2010 elections, an annualised increment of 16.6%.
Party-wise, for the candidates who won in 2010, and re-contested in 2015, the RJD’s MLAs saw the value of their assets increased from an average of Rs 1,88,99623 in 2010 to Rs 3,80,02019 in 2015. This reflects an annualised increment of 15%. For the BJP’s MLAs, it was a jump of 23.9 percent, from Rs 79,71,740 in 2010 to Rs 2,33,25,635 in 2015 and for JD(U) re-contestants, the average value increased from Rs 7,62,6009 in 2010 to Rs 2,67,02967, recording an annualised increment of 28.5%.

Even accounting for factors such as inflation, these are big numbers. The state’s economic growth looks tiny compared to the growth in the economic fortunes of politicians. Between 2010-11 and 2013-14, Bihar’s Gross Domestic Product grew by an impressive 10.4%. Annualised per-capita income went up from Rs 10,635 in 2009-10 to Rs 15,650 in 2013-14, a modest annualised increment of 10 per cent.

Patna’s GDP is highest

According to the latest estimates for per-capita Gross District Domestic Product relating to 2011-12, the most flourishing districts of Bihar are Patna with an annual per-capita income of Rs 63,063, Munger with a per-capita income of Rs 22,051, and Begusarai with a per-capita income of Rs. 17,587. Compare these numbers with the average assets holdings of political candidates in these districts: for the year 2015, these numbers are Rs 1,94,26503 for Patna, Rs 1,61,25894 for Munger, and Rs 1,66,95782 for Begusarai.

It is not as if this information is a secret or that the people don’t understand these numbers. The Association for Democratic Reforms ( releases information about economic and demographic profiles of all the candidates fighting elections in Bihar and elsewhere in India. These are publicly available numbers and can be easily interpreted by anyone who wants to do so.

Latest numbers suggest that literacy rates in Bihar have gone up from 47% in 2001 to 61.8% in 2011. In fact, more people are exercising their voting rights. The just finished Bihar election witnessed the highest number of voter turnout in 57 constituencies, with 60% of the people casting their votes. However, in spite of increase in awareness, voters still have little choices when it comes to candidates.

A popular perception about the reason for the increasing fortunes for politicians is corruption. To curb corruption there is a need for political, judicial, and administrative reforms. Currently, political funding is opaque and non-transparent, and at times is linked to corruption. Political funding is mobilized by looting the exchequer, and by selling patronage. To improve governance there is a need to undertake judicial reforms too, to ensure that cases do not go on and on for many years.

There is a need to make the bureaucracy and police independent. To curb corruption there is a need to create a statutory, independent Police Commission, along the lines of the Election Commission, to supervise crime investigation and prosecution. Ideally, an independent State Police Commissions in every state. That will end political interference and curb corruption, ultimately benefiting the entire political process.

Categories: Government, Politics

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