Live Mint
Ever since the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) published its report on assets of candidates for the forthcoming assembly elections in Karnataka, there has been significant outrage in the mainstream media about the significant increase in declared assets of candidates who had also contested in 2008.
Given this background, we thought it might make sense to analyse the effect of a candidate’s declared net worth on his or her chances of winning. Based on data from the last assembly elections in Karnataka in 2008 and the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, we see a small positive correlation between the candidate’s declared net worth and chances of success.
For each constituency, we looked at the declared net worth of the top two candidates. In the absence of an impact of declared net worth on performance, we would have expected the richer (as per declared net worth) candidate to win in approximately half the constituencies.
However, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the richer (of the top two) candidate won in about 320, or close to 60%, of the constituencies. Similarly, in the 2008 assembly elections in Karnataka, 120, or 57%, of constituencies saw the victory of the richer candidate.
It could, however, be the case that parties riding a wave (the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka in 2008, the United Progressive Alliance parties in general elections of 2009) fielded richer candidates compared with their opponents, and the candidates were simply riding their party’s wave rather than winning as a consequence of their net worth. To control for this, we looked at party-wise statistics of richest candidates winning elections.
For each major party, we compare the proportion of seats it wins when its candidate is the richest candidate to the proportion of seats it wins when its candidate is the second richest. Note that we only take into account those constituencies where the party’s candidate is either first or second. If the first number is consistently higher than the second, we can conclude that a candidate’s declared net worth positively impacts his chances of getting elected.
As the accompanying table shows, this is indeed the case. Except for the Bahujan Samaj Party, whose chances of victory are approximately equal irrespective of whether their candidate is the richer or poorer among the top two candidates in the constituency, candidates of all parties are more likely to win if they have a greater declared net worth than their direct opponent.
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