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29.07.2018
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The median total wealth of Lok Sabha candidates saw a rise of 116 per cent from 2004 to 2014, says a report published in Hindustan Times recently. The 16th Lok Sabha is the richest in independent India’s history, with 442 out of the 543 MPs crorepatis.
The report goes on to say that there is an increasing trend among political parties to choose “self-financing” candidates to run for polls. And hey, that’s absolutely wonderful.
Sabki pasand: ‘King of Good Times’ Vijay Mallya entered the Upper House courtesy the Congress. He stayed there courtesy the BJP. (Photo: Reuters/File)
MPs are supposed to be representatives of the country. What better proof of India’s growing riches than its super-rich legislators?
There are obvious benefits to crorepati MPs. One should be able to look up to one’s leaders. Their (up above the world so) high net worth will inspire the aspirational aam aadmi, making these MPs adarsh role models. How they got there is splitting hairs. The point is, they got there.
They also help make politics swachch again – as candidates, since they have their own money to spend, their parties don’t need to resort to shady ways to arrange funds for rallies, campaigning, and the occasional, unavoidable alcohol-distributing and voter-buying.
And frankly, leaders need to look the part.
Khadi is expensive to maintain, but something must set the hi-fi apart from the hoi polloi.
“If money go before, all ways do lie open”, said the Bard. If you are a crorepati, you are 10 times more likely to win an election in India, says an Association for Democratic Reforms report.
And if you choose to read ‘unfair practices’ into this, you are being quite unfair yourself. The Indian public is discerning. Who wouldn’t prefer a moneybag over a jhollawallah, a gentleman over a jhalla wallah? It’s the spirit of democracy that has ushered in 82 per cent crorepati MPs to the Lok Sabha.
The edge, however, is with the Rajya Sabha. Not for nothing is it called the ‘Upper House’, with nearly 90 per cent of the members here being millionaires.
The Constituent Assembly, when debating over the role of the Rajya Sabha, had high expectations of it. While N Gopalaswami Ayyangar termed it as the House which can rein in “passions of the moment”, Lokanath Mishra had described it as “a sobering House, a reviewing House, a House standing for quality and the members will be exercising their right to be heard on the merits of what they say, for their sobriety and knowledge of special problems…”
Naturally, only the best of the best deserve to breathe in its rarified air.
Rajya Sabha MPs are selected by MLAs or nominated by the President. And they have done a stellar job – the richest Rajya Sabha MP, JD(U)’s Mahendra Prasad from Bihar, owns two pharmaceutical companies, and assets worth Rs 4,078.40 crore. Next in line is Jaya Bachchan, with assets worth Rs 1,001.63 crore. After her is BJP’s Bihar MP Ravindra Kishore Sinha, owner of the security service firm SIS, with assets worth Rs 857.11 crore. Along with Rajya Sabha berths, these two have something else in common – while the name of Jaya’s husband, a certain Mr Amitabh, cropped up in the Panama Papers case, Sinha featured in the Paradise Papers.
In the Lok Sabha, it is three parties from Andhra Pradesh – TDP, TRS and YSRCP – that have contributed the most number of crorepati MPs, with average assets worth over Rs 50 crore.
No wonder a former Andhra MP from the Congress – another millionaire, L Rajagopal – got so angry when the Bill to divide Andhra was tabled that he sprayed pepper spray in the Parliament in 2014.
This is another benefit of having rich MPs – they brook no nonsense and resort to direct action when their wishes are ignored – exactly the kind of qualities the young and restless of this country need to learn.
The BJP might have popularised the term “acche din”, but it was the Congress that first backed the entry of the ‘king of good times’, Vijay Mallya, to the Rajya Sabha. Though the BJP too did its part, and backed his membership in his second term.
In the 16th Lok Sabha, the four richest MPs are from business families. One may raise allegations of crony capitalism here, but everyone knows that capital is good, capital is desirable. And who doesn’t like to have cronies?
These millionaire MPs are doing India a great service by devoting their very valuable time to the service of the nation. But we can take pride in the fact that the nation is not thankless. The crorepatis get a salary from the taxpayers’ money for their MP duties. Understanding our gratitude, and, like true leaders, taking away the onus of expressing it from us, the MPs awarded themselves a 100 per cent salary hike in the February Budget session.
A million dollar idea, indeed.

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