Hindustan Times
New Delhi

Delhi is a city of businessmen and traders -- and this fact reflects in the composition of its Legislative Assembly. Since 1993, the first term of the reconstituted Delhi Assembly, the number of traders and businessmen has gone up systematically. But the number of professionals - doctors, lawyers and teachers - has come down. 

According to Sudarshan Kumar Sharma, former secretary of Lok Sabha and Delhi Assembly, who did a “socio-economic study on Delhi MLAs”, a majority of legislators in the fourth assembly are traders or run factories.

“Of the 70 MLAs, the occupation of 33 legislators is family business. There are five teachers, four doctors and two lawyers. In 1993, there were 10 teachers, four lawyers and two doctors while the number of businessmen and traders was just 26,” Sharma said.

While 12 MLAs have declared their profession as social and political workers, 16 MLAs have not mentioned anything, giving the impression that they are into some kind of business.

Experts said money was one of the biggest requirements to contest polls and win them. Political parties too prefer giving tickets to candidates on “winnability”. So factors such as education qualification and profession take a back seat.

“The trend is clear. The role of money - especially unaccounted money - in electoral process has been steadily increasing,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, founder-member, Association for Democratic Reforms.

While the election commission of India has fixed `14 lakh as the upper limit of expenditure on campaigning by a candidate, sources said prominent candidates end up spending anything between `2 and `5 crore on their elections.

Veteran BJP MLA Harsharan Singh Balli, urban development minister Arvinder Singh and Congress MLA Ravindra Bansal come from industrialist families. Former minister Mangat Ram Singhal, public works department minister Raj Kumar Chauhan, Kalkaji MLA Subhash Chopra, Rohini MLA Jai Bhagwan Aggarwal, four-time Congress MLA from Sadar Bazar Rajesh Jain too run their businesses.

“Many of them are builders or run real estate companies,” a senior Congress MLA said requesting anonymity. “Some of them run chains of schools and educational institutes.”

“But I would personally want more qualified people to reach the assembly,” four-time MLA Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

While the literacy level and educational qualification of people have been on a steady rise, the number of MLAs who are at least graduates is more or less stagnant.  Moreover, the fourth assembly was not as young as the first assembly. There were 38 MLAs below 45 years of age in 1993. In 2008, their number came down to just 19. The number of MLAs in the age group of 46 to 65 increased from 37 in 1993 to 46 in 2008.

“Lack of democracy in political parties does not allow young leaders to flourish unless they are politically well connected,” Chhokar said.

While the Congress party has been pushing for 33% quota for women in Parliament and state assemblies, the participation of women in Delhi assembly is abysmal. The second term of Delhi assembly, between 1998 and 2003, when the Congress was voted to power, was the best in terms of the participation of women. Nine women were elected to the assembly - from the Congress and the BJP combined - in that election.

Pointing out that there is a perception amongst political parties that women candidate do not  garner votes of women, Rekha Mody of Stree Shakti, an NGO, said: “If there are more women MLAs, there would be a paradigm change in social discourse. Women’s issues would be tackled more sensitively.”

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