The rich and the infamous

V Balakrishnan, R Prabhakar Reddy, Nandan Nilekani, BS Yeddyurappa, B Sriramulu and Pramod Muthalik
The loaded (top left to right) V Balakrishnan, R Prabhakar Reddy and Nandan Nilekani
The tainted (bottom left to right) BS Yeddyurappa, B Sriramulu and Pramod Muthalik

Politics and crime go hand in hand. In India, the trend is on the rise: individuals with criminal background continue to enter politics as the assets of serving politicians soar exponentially by the end of their terms. Even after the recent brouhaha over corruption and criminalisation of politics, a recent analysis of backgrounds and financial details of candidates by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), in partnership with the Karnataka Election Watch (KEW), shows as many as 55 candidates contesting in the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies of Karnataka with criminal cases lodged against them. Not surprisingly, the report says, the average asset of contesting MPs grew by 200 percent between 2009-14.

ADR’s analysis establishes that politics is a lucrative business for aspirants. Across the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka, 434 candidates are trying their luck in the General Election. According to the analysis, of the 55 candidates who have criminal records, six are from the Congress, nine from the BJP, eight from former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) and 14 are independents. Of the 55 candidates, 35 face serious criminal cases related to attempt to murder and crimes against women. Pramod Muthalik, who recently joined the BJP only to be denied the party membership the next day, and B Sriramulu, former health minister who quit the BJP to form the BSR Congress before returning to the party’s fold, top the list of candidates who have declared cases related to attempt to murder.

Topping the list is the BS Yeddyurappa of the BJP, who not only toiled and built the party for 40 years but also helped it come to power in 2008, becoming its first chief minister in south India. His term is most remembered for corruption scandals. He had to step down after being indicted in the multi-crore mining scam. According to the affidavits filed with the Election Commission, there are nine cases pending against Yeddyurappa, who is contesting from Shimoga district. Most cases against him are related to land scams that happened during his tenure as chief minister, including denotification of land in favour of his kith and kin. Subsequently, he has been charged for criminal breach of trust by a public servant (IPC Section 406), forgery for purpose of cheating (IPC Section 468) and IPC Section 420 (dishonestly inducing delivery of property). There are also eight charges related to criminal conspiracy (IPC Section 120B), six under IPC Section 471 (using forged documents) and five related to forgery under IPC Section 463. While the charges have been framed in most cases, he is yet to be convicted.

Second on the list is Muthalik, chief of the extreme right-wing outfit Sri Ram Sene. His outfit gained notoriety in 2009 when his activists in Mangalore attacked women in pubs. Muthalik, who is contesting as an independent candidate from Bangalore South against Nandan Nilekani of the Congress and Ananth Kumar of the BJP, has eight pending cases against him. He has been booked under 34 Sections of the IPC. Most cases are related to his political activism that helped him gain notoriety over the years: from causing enmity between different religious groups to moral policing to causing disturbance to communal harmony to criminal intimidation and even attempt to murder. Even though some of the cases go as far back as 2004, he hasn’t been convicted in any of them.

Former BJP minister and mining baron Sriramulu faces eight cases. Most of them are from 2008-13, when he was jailed in the Karnataka iron ore mining scandal. They include cases of rioting armed with a deadly weapon (IPC Section 148), criminal conspiracy (IPC Section 120B), criminal trespass, hurt by dangerous weapons, criminal intimidation and attempt to murder.

While the BJP is clearly ahead on the list, the Congress and the JD(S) are not far behind. The tainted Congress candidates include former CM N Dharam Singh and youth leader Rizwan Arshad. Dharam Singh, who was chief minister in 2004, has one case registered against him with charges of forgery, cheating and destruction of evidence. On the other hand, Arshad, who was handpicked by Rahul Gandhi for the Bangalore Central constituency, has two cases registered against him related to criminal intimidation and rioting.

The highest number of cases declared by a Congress candidate is minister DK Shiva Kumar’s brother DK Suresh; he is the sitting MP from Bangalore Rural. Shiva Kumar’s family has been fighting against the JD(S) to gain control over this stronghold for years. The constituency is now considered the personnel fiefdom of the DK brothers. On the other hand, their political rival, former CM and JD(S) supremo HD Kumaraswamy, has declared one case against him.

And it isn’t just criminal cases, the assets of most candidates have increased since they were elected in 2009. According to IIM Bangalore professor and KEW founder trustee Trilochan Sastry, there are 118 crorepatis in the fray, including 27 from the Congress, 26 from the BJP and 21 from the Aam Aadmi Party. All this, says Sastry, is evidence that the super rich are active in the business of politics. Such candidates comprise 27 percent of the Lok Sabha candidates. According to the ADR-KEW analysis, the average asset of each candidate in this election is Rs 22.98 crores.

With declared assets worth Rs 7,700 crore, former Infosys chief and the head of the Aadhar card project, Nandan Nilekani, is the richest candidate in the country. The second richest candidate is R Prabhakar Reddy of the JD(S) with Rs 224 crore. Nilekani’s former colleague V Balakrishnan, who is contesting on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket from Bangalore Central, has declared assets worth Rs 189 crore. As many as 50 candidates have declared assets worth more than Rs 50 crore, while on the other hand, four candidates have declared zero assets and 51 have declared assets less than Rs 1 lakh. Among the major parties, the average assets of 28 Congress candidates is Rs 293.75 crore, 25 JD(S) candidates have average assets worth 30.40 crore, 28 BJP candidates have average assets of Rs 14.65 crore and 28 AAP candidates have Rs 8.49 crore.

According to the analysis, the assets of 21 outgoing MPs who are contesting again in the Lok Sabha polls have seen an average increase to the tune of Rs 13.67 crore — a staggering 200 percent spike. Their average assets in 2014 come close to Rs 20.50 crores. Among them is Kumaraswamy, whose assets increased from Rs 49 crore in 2009 to Rs 167 crore in 2014. Kumaraswamy is contesting from Chikballapur constituency. Whereas Congress leader KH Muniyappa’s assets grew from Rs 5 crore in 2009 to Rs 18 crore. He is contesting from Kolar constituency. Similarly the assets of PC Mohan, BJP’s Bangalore Central candidate, grew from Rs 5 crore in 2009 to Rs 47 crore. Suresh Angadi, the BJP candidate from Belgaum, has seen his assets grow from Rs 22 crore to Rs 41 crores. These are the top four recontesting MPs with the highest asset increase in the past five years, says the report.

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