In the high-stakes Himachal Pradesh assembly elections on Saturday, over 50 per cent candidates are crorepatis. The Congress, which is pinning its hopes on anti-incumbency, has close to 90 per cent crorepati candidates as compared to 82 per cent crorepati nominees in the ruling BJP that is gunning for a comeback. This means 61 Congress and 56 BJP candidates are crorepatis.
According to a report the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), 55 per cent (226) of the 412 candidates fighting the polls are in the crorepati list. Not only this, some of these crorepati candidates even have criminal charges against them. Topping the list of crorepatis, however, is a candidate of the BJP despite a higher number of Congress candidates in the rich list.
The ADR report stated that the Aam Aadmi Party, meanwhile, has 52 per cent candidates in this category. The party has fielded candidates on 67 out of a total of 68 assembly constituencies and has 35 crorepati nominees.
Also in the rich list are 25 per cent (13) BSP candidates along with 36 per cent (four) CPI(M) nominees. The BSP is contesting on 53 seats. Not only this, 45 independent candidates are also crorepatis.
BJP candidate tops rich list, 66 ‘criminal crorepatis’
The BJP candidate from Chopal constituency in Shimla, Balvir Singh Verma tops the list of crorepati candidates with total assets of Rs 128 crore.
Former chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh, who is fighting the election from the Shimla Rural seat, comes in second with total assets of Rs 101 crore. Son of late Congress leader GS Bali, Nagrota candidate RS Bali is third on the list with total assets of Rs 96.36 crore.
Out of over 200 crorepati candidates, 66 are facing criminal charges. Rakesh Singha of the CPI(M) from Theog seat is facing maximum number of criminal cases at 30, while his fellow party leader Kuldip Singh Tanwar from Kasumapti seat in Shimla district is also facing 20 cases. Virbhadra’s son Vikramaditya is facing 11 criminal cases.
Increase in assets of re-contesting MLAs
In another ADR report, it was highlighted that the assets of 84 per cent re-contesting MLAs have increased ranging from 5 per cent to 1,167 per cent. Hence, the assets of 49 out of 58 re-contesting MLAs have recorded an increase. The report also showed that the assets of nine MLAs (16 per cent) had decreased ranging from (-) 4 per cent to (-) 37 per cent.
The average assets of these 58 re-contesting MLAs fielded by different parties, including independents, in 2017 were Rs 9.30 crore, which increased to Rs 12.08 crore in 2022. The average asset growth for these MLAs between 2017 and 2022, hence, is Rs 2.77 crore while in percentage terms, the growth is 30 per cent.
Verma, who is on top of the rich list this time, declared the maximum increase of Rs 37.71 crore in assets since 2017. The assets of BJP’s Anil Sharma increased by Rs 17.23 crore from Rs 40.24 crore in 2017 to Rs 57.48 crore in 2022. The assets of Vikramaditya have also risen by Rs 17.06 crore from Rs 84.32 crore in 2017 to Rs 101.39 crore in 2022.
Analysing the increase party-wise, the average assets of 35 re-contesting BJP candidates rose by Rs 3.20 crore (44 per cent) to Rs 10.46 crore in 2022 from Rs 7.25 crore in 2017. For 20 Congress candidates, the average asset increase was Rs 2.3 crore (17.72 per cent) to Rs 15.31 crore in 2022 against Rs 13.01 crore in 2017.
Over 55 lakh voters in the hill state will decide the fate of the 412 candidates, including chief minister Jairam Thakur, Vikramaditya Singh and former BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, in 68 constituencies on Saturday.
Record Cash, Liquor, Freebies Seized in HP, Gujarat: EC
Describing it as a “record", the Election Commission said close to 11 lakh litres of liquor, freebies worth Rs 65 crore and Rs 17.84 crore in cash meant to induce voters have been seized from poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. In the hill state, there had been a five-fold increase in seizures as compared to the 2017 assembly polls, the EC added.
Himachal Pradesh will go to polls on Saturday, while Gujarat will have voting in two phases on December 1 and 5. The counting of votes will take place on December 8.
The seizures in Himachal Pradesh are significant, amounting to Rs 50.28 crore as compared to Rs 9.03 crore five years ago, marking more than a five-fold increase, the EC said. Giving details, it said Rs 17.18 crore in cash, liquor worth Rs 17.5 crore, drugs worth Rs 1.2 crore and freebies worth Rs 41 lakh were seized in Himachal Pradesh till November 10.
The poll panel pointed out that even during the recent bypolls in seven assembly constituencies in Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, significant seizures of Rs 9.35 crore were made. It also noted that record seizures were made in the “highly expenditure sensitive" Munugode assembly constituency in Telangana, where cash amounting to Rs 6.6 crore, along with thousands of litres of liquor and Rs 1.78 crore worth precious metals, was seized.
(With PTI inputs)
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