New Delhi

Jharkhand may continue to be among the poorest states of the country, but its legislators seem to be scripting rags-to-riches stories.

The combined wealth of 37 sitting MLAs seeking re-election to the assembly has increased by an unbelievable 3,454% since the 2004 polls, according to a report released by the National Election Watch (NEW), which campaigns for electoral reforms and clean governance.

Clearly, former state chief minister Madhu Koda, key accused in the multi-crore money laundering scam, is not the only billionaire politician in the impoverished state.

While the mineral-rich state has been sliding down the growth ladder ever since it was carved out of Bihar (the 2008-09 economic survey had put the state’s growth rate at 9.52%), the 37 MLAs have registered an average increase of Rs58 lakh each in their personal wealth in the last five years.

Sample this: The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA from Gumla, Bhushan Tirkey, had declared assets worth Rs6,000 in 2004. Five years later, Tirkey is richer by more than Rs67.27 lakh, an increase of more than 1,12,121%.

For those who believe that legislators from the ruling combine are reaping the harvest, Jharkhand provides a contrary view — legislators across partylines have registered a manifold increase in wealth. Congress MLA from Hazaribagh Saurabh Narayan Singh had declared assets worth Rs33.53 lakh in 2004. He was worth more than Rs9.49 crore this time, an increase of 2,730%.

Kedar Hazra, the BJP legislator from Jamua had assets worth Rs4.15 lakh in 2004, but is now wealthier by Rs26.09 lakh with assets worth Rs30.24 lakh — a 628.67% growth.
Sudesh Kumar Mahato of the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU), a fringe party, had declared assets worth Rs7.04 lakh in 2004. The legislator from Silli is now richer by Rs1.6crore, an increase of 2,270%.

When the Jharkhand polls have been in focus due to the Koda scam and rampant corruption, political parties have no plausible justification for the staggering escalation of their legislators’ wealth.

“I cannot comment on these statistics as I have not examined the report. However, if the report is correct it certainly is an area of concern and must be looked into,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad. Prasad said they would have to seek how the assets have increased. “If a property had been bought five years ago, there is bound to be some appreciation in its value. But if it is unexplained wealth, then it needs to be examined,” he said.

Of the 37 sitting legislators in question, the maximum (11) belong to the BJP.Congress party’s K Keshav Rao, in charge of the party’s Jharkhand affairs, refused to comment.

The incredible escalations of wealth of legislators’ apart, Jharkhand polls are also witnessing an electoral clash between candidates with serious criminal charges pending against them. As many as 321 of the 997 candidates have criminal cases pending against them — 155 have been charged with murder, rape and attempt to murder.

The JMM has fielded 49 candidates with criminal cases pending against them, followed by Congress (30), BJP (27) and RJD (23).

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