India Today
New Delhi

With the Punjab assembly polls only a few days away, India Today's Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) analysed trends of winners in the last three assembly elections in the state. The data shows that candidates with criminal records enjoy only a slim advantage over someone with a clean record. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in Uttar Pradesh, where someone with declared criminal cases is three times more likely to win elections than those without.

However, candidates with net assets over Rs. 5 crores in Punjab are nearly eight times more likely to succeed than someone with modest wealth.

For instance, in the 2007 assembly elections, the winning ratio of tainted candidates was one out of three. For those without a criminal background, it was one out of five. The percentage of winners with criminal records dropped to 17 per cent in 2012, and further declined to 16 per cent in 2017. The gap between the winning percentage of tainted candidates vis-à-vis those with the clean record has stayed more or less the same in the last two state elections.

In the ongoing assembly polls, the Election Commission made it mandatory for political parties to declare why candidates with criminal backgrounds were given tickets to contest.


Data from the Association for Democratic Reforms shows that higher the candidates' net assets, the greater are their chances of winning. In 2007, for instance, 13 per cent of the candidates with net assets of less than Rs. 1 crore won the elections. It was 41 per cent for candidates with net assets between Rs. 1 and Rs. 5 crores, and 37 per cent for candidates with over Rs. 5 crores in declared net assets.

The picture changed altogether ten years later. In 2017, the percentage of winning candidates with net assets below Rs. 1 crore was merely three per cent. It was 15 per cent for candidates with assets worth between Rs. 1 crore and Rs. 5 crores, and 35 per cent for candidates with over Rs. 5 crores in declared net assets. Wealthy candidates were thus ten times more likely to win in 2017 than someone with declared assets of less than Rs. 1 crore.

This is unlikely to change much this time. ADR data shows that almost a third of all candidates in the fray in the coming assembly elections have assets worth more than Rs. 2 crores. And the average assets of declared candidates stands at a whopping Rs. 4.31 crores.


Another trend that has emerged over the years is the greater acceptance of experienced hands. The probability of winning candidates who are below the age of 40 is nearly a third of all those above the age of 60. While almost one out of ten young candidates (less than 40 years old) won the elections in 2007, the percentage dropped to just seven in 2017.

As Punjab gears up to vote on February 20, it will be interesting to see what the new assembly will look like — and if the state will keep its tradition of keeping the menace of muscle power in politics in check.

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