Monitoring disclosures

REETIKA KHERA

back to issue

IN an attempt to curtail the citizen’s right to know about the criminal and financial antecedents of electoral candidates, the Parliament tried to insert a controversial section (Section 33B) in the Representation of People’s Act in 2002. This move had the support of the government and opposition parties. However, the ordinance was challenged by the Association of Democratic Rights (ADR) and by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).1 The Supreme Court passed an order on 13 March 2003 holding as unconstitutional the insertion of Section 33B in the Representation of People’s Act.

This order pertains to the disclosure by electoral candidates of their financial assets, outstanding debts, criminal records and educational attainment. All electoral candidates for Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, will now have to submit these details along with their nomination papers.2

Candidates are required to file, along with their nomination papers, affidavits that contain detailed information on the cash holdings, bank accounts, shares, bonds, debentures, mutual funds and so on held by them and their spouse(s), as well as their dependents. The affidavit to be submitted has four sections: first, the section on criminal cases against the candidate; second, a section on financial and other assets; third, a section on outstanding dues, and finally a section on educational attainments of the candidate. It has a separate column for the candidate, their spouse, and up to three dependents.

A separate row has been provided for agricultural and non-agricultural land, buildings, houses and apartments, land owned, its current market value, loans outstanding and their source, government dues outstanding, etc. Thus, it is now possible for all voters to get information on the movable and immovable assets of each of their candidates. Besides this, details of criminal charges against, and convictions of, each candidate can also be obtained from the affidavits.

The Supreme Court’s verdict has the potential to change the character/nature of elections and democracy in India. The disclosure of such information is vital because as citizens it is important for us to know about the people we elect to make policy. We need to know whether they are honest and capable of making the right decisions for us. The affidavit provides us another tool (apart from voting them out) to keep a tab on our representatives and to ensure some accountability especially vis-à-vis their sources of income.

 

 

Little is known about what drives a voter’s decision. At best we can guess that caste factors, political parties, the candidate, etc. all play a role in making the decision. A recent study by CSDS found that in Rajasthan for a third of the voters the candidates were the most important factor in their voting decision.3 If it is true that many voters take the individual’s character and background into account while making decisions, then the information in the affidavits is likely to be an important factor on which to base their choice. Even though candidates may (and do) lie in their affidavits, a false affidavit is also important information for a voter. Voters of a constituency are quite likely to know quite a lot about their candidates and will be able to wean out the honest from the dishonest.

 

 

It seems plausible that criminalization of politics and the role of money and muscle power have been responsible for the growing apathy among some sections of voters in the country. This apathy contributes to weakening democracy. However, we have not been able to understand why such persons alone (i.e. those with money/muscle power) are given tickets by political parties. Armed with information for each candidate, we hope to understand what drives the process of giving tickets and selection of candidates adopted by various parties, and what the barriers to entry for better representatives are. It is also likely for it to be embarrassing for a political party to have everyone know that their candidates have criminal charges against them, or are fielding only very rich candidates.

While the potential uses of this order are varied and its impact can be powerful, actualizing it is not an easy task. This is so for many reasons, primary among which is that access to these documents is not easy.4 The affidavits are submitted to the relevant returning officers. Accessing these requires reasonable amount of motivation. Besides, after having accessed this information in time, some further work is required to verify the authenticity of the information provided by the candidates. As individuals this is possible only at one’s local level. To get the larger picture of where our politicians stand vis-à-vis their financial status and criminal records, we need to compile and collate the information at the district and state level. The effort that this requires makes it difficult for individual citizens to accomplish.

Keeping in mind these difficulties in accessing and collating information from affidavits, Aastha, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana, Barefoot College, URMUL, Vividha, and other civil society groups from different parts of Rajasthan created a platform – The Rajasthan Election Watch. The purpose was to gain access to all the affidavits for the contestants of the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha elections held on 1 December 2003. The intention/plan was to gather these affidavits and understand how the information contained in them could be of use to voters and other citizens. We wanted to simplify and demystify the information provided therein and explore the possible ways in which the information contained in these affidavits could be used to strengthen and deepen the electoral, and larger democratic, process.

 

 

For immediate use, we decided to do the following: one, make a one-page summary for each constituency, containing information about each candidate – the number of cases against him/her, their financial assets, agricultural and non-agricultural landholdings, and value of jewellery owned. It was hoped that member groups would use this to distribute as parchas in the relevant constituency for voters to know their candidates. Second, for each election division within the state, and for the state as a whole, we prepared wealth rankings (based on land, cars and jewellery owned) for dissemination through the press. Third, some groups like the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan used the constituency summary sheets to organize jan manches in Beawar, Bhim and Rajsamand. Charts stating the financial assets of each candidate were displayed at the site of the public meeting where all the contestants were invited to answer questions from the electorate. Here, the candidates were questioned about, among other things, their criminal records and wealth.

For the longer term, the idea was to create a database for use after the elections by all interested persons: e.g. jan sunwais can be organized where information from the affidavit of any person/constituency is verified in detail and then presented before the public. The data will allow a follow-up five years later during the next elections to see how the position of the winners has changed.

 

 

An interesting aspect of Rajasthan Election Watch was that the process was as much of an achievement and an education as the outputs that were generated by the process. The process involved various tasks: gathering the affidavits from the 200 constituencies of the state; sending them across to Jaipur (the headquarters for this campaign); reading them and making sense of how the information could be used so as to be meaningful to as large a number and variety of ordinary voters; and finally, putting the information out in the public arena to help initiate a debate around these issues.

Also notable is the fact that the entire effort was carried out by volunteers from rural and urban areas. The volunteers ranged, in age, from 18 to more than 60 years. They included youngsters from rural areas who were excited about using computers and interacting with others from their state, as well as retired government officials, researchers, lawyers and journalists, among others.

Nomination papers began to be filed from 7 November 2003 and the last date for withdrawal of papers was 17 November. Elections were held on 1 December 2003. This gave us between 15-25 days in which to accomplish the short-term objective of preparing constituency summaries and state-wide rankings for dissemination through the press and other channels. To meet our objective of disseminating this information in a reader-friendly manner before votes were cast, we had less than two weeks from the date of final withdrawal of nomination papers.

We divided the state into six divisions based on the structure of the Election Commission. Persons from various walks of life took charge of collecting the affidavits from their division and sending them across to us in Jaipur. Those responsible included doctors, journalists, persons from PUCL, NGOs and activists. We ran the entire programme on a budget of about Rs 60,000 raised by NCPRI and others through personal contributions. This meant that we could not afford luxuries such as couriers. But we managed to come up with a system just as efficient: handing copies of the affidavits to bus drivers and conductors who would pass them on in Jaipur.

 

 

Once the affidavits starting flooding our temporary office in Jaipur, they were meticulously numbered and assigned a unique identity. We functioned as an assembly line. We had prepared a ‘code sheet’ where the information was written in a more systematic and standardized manner than it was in the affidavit, so that the data entry would be smooth. For instance, while transferring data from the affidavit to the code sheet, volunteers were asked to convert agricultural land into bighas, and non-agricultural land into square feet. Since many of the affidavits were not legible, we had a magnifying glass doing the rounds to improve our chances of gleaning information from the affidavits. Each team had a conversion chart to help them convert square yards into square feet and hectares into bighas wherever necessary.

One group of volunteers was responsible for transferring information from the affidavits to the code sheets; the next group to ‘feed’ these code sheets and enter the data from them onto spreadsheets. Once this exercise was complete for any particular election division, the data was ready for division analysis and to prepare the constituency summary sheets. These constituency summary sheets were then given to another group of volunteers to check against the original affidavit for each candidate. If any discrepancies were spotted, another round of corrections began. Once this was done, we were ready to prepare the division rankings and the final summary sheets to be sent to the constituencies.

While it all sounds very smooth, newcomers who visited the office-cum-residence were overwhelmed by the hectic activity and chaos that prevailed. On any given day there were approximately 60 volunteers working in the office during the day, and about 15 people working and sleeping there in the night. Since not all volunteers were equally adept at handling numbers, each team worked on a different section of the affidavit: there were two volunteers who worked on the criminal section, girls from Kanodia College worked on the education section, teachers from Shiksha Niketan (SWRC) worked on the conversions, and so on. For this too there were shifts: some shifts worked during the day, others during the night.

 

 

Out of the 1541 candidates in the fray for the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha elections 2003, we were able to get the affidavits of close to 1000 candidates. Of these, we were able to use around 950 in our analysis. The loss was because many of the records were either illegible, poorly photocopied, or incorrectly filled and therefore useless for our purposes.

The incompleteness of information provided in the affidavits raises an interpretational issue. Are blanks to be taken as zeros or should they be separated out from the analysis. In the rankings, we have stated how many turned up as blanks and those who reported having no assets. Blanks have been treated as ‘information not available’ rather than as ‘zeros’.

 

 

We decided to present the data for agricultural land and non-agricultural land separately. We have reported agricultural land in bighas and non-agricultural land holdings (whether in rural or urban areas) in square feet. As land measures vary across the state, we had to apply a standard rate to make the data comparable across candidates and constituencies. The appendix contains the conversion rates applied for converting land into bighas.

Similarly, in the case of jewellery, the amount of gold owned was reported in tolas at times and in grams at others. We have converted tolas into grams for our analysis. When the value of jewellery was not stated, we left that as blank. We did not apply the market rates to the amount of gold or silver reported by the candidates. Thus, our analysis, if at all will tend to understate the value of their jewellery and indeed other assets such as property.

There are 200 constituencies in Rajasthan. The two main political parties in the fray this time were the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress (I). Both parties were contesting almost all the seats in the state. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were the main new entrants in Rajasthan politics in these elections.

 

 

Criminal Records: We were able to use 954 affidavits for studying the criminal antecedents of the contestants. We compiled the list of contestants with criminal records from this (see Table 1). The reference to ‘criminal records’ here means not only those who have been convicted but also those charged with various crimes. This list shows that there were 124 candidates with criminal records in the fray. Of these, 39 were fielded by the BJP, 16 by the Congress, 23 were independents. The remaining were mainly from BSP, RSNM, JD(U). Madan Dilawar of the BJP from Atru (Baran) topped the list with 17 cases against him followed closely by Bansilal Khatik from Rajsamand in South Rajasthan with eight cases. Incidentally, Madan Dilawar was hoping to be re-elected and both of them won the elections.

The number of cases against a candidate needs to be interpreted with some caution. First, the range of crimes for which candidates have been booked varies tremendously. We therefore looked at the sections and acts under which they were booked as well. We classified crimes as ‘serious’ and other crimes. Some of the crimes that were classified as serious include dacoity (Section 395 of IPC), robbery (Section 392 of IPC), injuring or defiling a place of worship or uttering words with intent to insult the religion of any class (Sections 295 and 298), house trespass (Section 457), arson, attempt to murder (Section 307), Section 6(3) of the Sati Nivaran Act, Section 9 of the Opium Act and Sections of the Explosives Act.

 

TABLE 1

Party-wise Contestants and Contestants with Criminal Records*

Name of political party

Total number of contestants

Number of contestants with criminal record

ABCDC (A)

2

1

ABRAHP

2

1

AITMC

1

0

BJP

162

39

BNJD

1

0

BRVP

2

0

BSP

67

10

CPI

12

1

CPI(ML)(L)

2

0

CPM

8

4

CPI(ML)

2

1

FCI

1

0

INC

176

16

IND

255

21

INL

1

0

INLD

28

8

IRP

1

0

JD(S)

4

4

JD(U)

10

0

JP

3

0

LJNSP

16

0

LPSP

1

1

NCP

29

3

NDP

1

0

RAM

1

0

RBSP

2

0

RJD

3

0

RKB

1

0

RLD

25

1

RMP

1

0

RPD

12

1

RSNM

32

2

RSP

1

0

SHS

16

4

SJP

1

0

SP

40

5

SVP

2

0

TOTAL

924

124

* There are 1541 aspirants in the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha 2003 elections, for which we have received 954 affidavits. We were able to use only 924 affidavits because the rest were incomplete, illegible, or for other related reasons.

 

Second, in some instances, false cases may be registered against an aspirant. For instance, it is quite possible that politicians who were earlier trade unionists have false cases booked against them. Or, some persons may have been booked because of participation in demonstrations against the government. The crimes that we put under this category included Sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 323, 332 (related to unlawful assembly, rioting, obstructing a public servant in discharge of duty, etc). A large number of candidates with any criminal record have been booked under these sections.

 

 

This classification revealed that as many as 40% of those with some criminal records had been booked under ‘serious’ crimes. In the list of serious crimes too, the BJP tops with 19 out of 43 such candidates. The list with serious crimes included people such as Ramzaan Khan of the BJP, MLA from Pushkar (who has not been re-elected) and who had earlier been convicted for three years under the Opium Act in Ajmer. Also Bharosi Lal of the Indian National Congress who has been booked under a wide variety of serious crimes. The list of crimes includes punishment for rioting, mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage, intent to destroy house, assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty, attempt to commit culpable homicide, kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her into marriage, cheating, forgery, using a forged document as genuine.

There were three candidates who had been booked for crimes against women. Another seven had been booked for economic crimes.

Financial assets: The section on movable and immovable assets (in the affidavit) of a candidate excites most interest, but is also the most incomplete and controversial section of the affidavit. With criminal records, it is easy to access government records to get at the truth. Financial data is probably the most difficult to verify.

 

 

The biggest revelation is the extent to which candidates try to avoid revealing their actual total assets. Different means are employed to conceal their assets: this includes writing illegibly (requiring the use of magnifying glasses), submitting incomplete forms (more on this below), undervaluing property and jewellery, and so on.

In the case of movable and immovable assets there are many ways in which the candidates seek to get away with revealing as little as possible. Some do not state some/all of their assets. For example, there are seven candidates who claim to have no financial assets at all.5 This is especially difficult to believe because six of them report, in the same affidavit, land or jewellery worth more than Rs 1,00,000. For instance, Suresh Chand of RSNM reports land worth Rs 14 lakh; Jagtar Singh of the Congress jewellery worth Rs 1.3 lakh. The lone candidate to have reported no assets of any kind is Seva Ram Jatav. One wonders who paid the Rs 5000 deposit required for filing nomination papers.

 

 

Such anomalies are not difficult to find. For instance, at the other end of the spectrum of wealth distribution we found eleven crorepatis who claim that they own no vehicle. This includes the ex-chief minister Ashok Gehlot and the new chief minister, Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

 

 

TABLE 2

Party-wise Distribution of Declared Value of Total Assets*

Name of political party

Less than

Rs 1,00,000

Between Rs 1,00,000 and Rs. 25,00,000

Between Rs 25,00,000 and Rs 1,00,00,000

More than Rs 1,00,00,000

Total

BJP

2

68

81

15

166

BSP

6

44

16

2

68

CPI

6

13

4

0

23

CPI(ML)(L)

         

CPM

         

CPI(ML)

         

INC

0

58

88

32

178

INLD

0

17

11

1

29

JD(S)

0

3

0

0

3

JD(U)

0

7

3

0

10

JP

1

2

0

0

3

LJNSP

2

11

1

0

14

NCP

4

19

6

1

30

RJD

1

3

0

0

4

RLD

4

14

3

4

25

RPD

2

7

1

1

11

RSNM

0

27

5

1

33

SHS

4

10

1

1

16

SP

7

30

4

1

42

Others

8

13

1

0

22

IND

49

150

43

14

256

TOTAL

95

497

268

73

933

* Others includes ABCDC(A), ABRAHP, AITMC, BNJD, BRVP, FCI, INL, IRP, LPSP, NDP, RAM, RBSP, RKP, RMP, RSP, SJP, SVP.

 

The reporting of land of various types becomes tricky, more a game of hide-and-seek. Many candidates reported the area of their holdings, but not its value. Others decided to report the value and not the area.6 Yet others, only how many pieces of land they had without giving details of either area or value of property or its location. Those who reported the value of property – whether agricultural land, or non-agricultural land, or houses, apartments – used their own estimates of prices in the area rather than the current market value. For instance, one candidate owns a shop on MI Road in Jaipur, one of the busiest and most expensive market areas in the heart of the city, and valued it at just Rs 3,00,000. Such inconsistencies are common.

 

 

The incompleteness of the information provided by the contestants makes it difficult to use it for sophisticated statistical analysis. However, it offers great potential for follow-up action on how and where and in what ways information has been concealed by the electoral candidates. Their affidavits can be used to start an ‘investigation’ and file counter-affidavits to expose the lies (an offence under Section 182 of the IPC). Another interesting exercise would be to compare the total assets of the candidates as stated in this election with their declared assets five years down the line.

Even the incomplete affidavits, however, serve as an eye-opener: in Rajasthan there are at least 73 self-declared crorepatis among the 933 candidates for whom we have somewhat complete information. Among the (self-declared) crorepatis, it is the Congress (I) that dominates in numbers. Nearly half of these crorepatis are from the Congress, with BJP in second place with 15 crorepatis (see Table 2). It must be borne in mind that the presence of these two parties in the crorepati list could be either due to them having reported their assets more correctly than others and/or to actually being at the top of the ladder. Given the information we have at present, it is not possible to say anything about the veracity or completeness of the information provided in the affidavits.

 

 

Out of the 73 crorepatis, as many as 21 were incumbents. The crorepatis are also well represented in the group with 28 winners. When one looks at party-wise averages, the Congress tops the list again. The average value of total assets of all Congress contestants is Rs 73 lakh, followed by the BJP with an average value of assets at Rs 51 lakh.

 

 

As far as agricultural land holdings are concerned, about 740 candidates provided some information. Jitendra Singh tops the list when we consider the value of agricultural land (his is valued at just over Rs 6 crore). Such rankings were prepared for non-agricultural land holdings as well as for number of vehicles owned and value of jewellery.

 

 

TABLE 3

Level of Education of Electoral Candidates, Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha 2003

Name of political party

Illiterate

Upto primary

Upto Secondary

Upto Senior secondary

Graduates

Post- graduates

Other

BJP

0

14

10

21

27

22

31

 

0

11

13

13

41

21

3

BSP

0

9

8

9

6

6

8

 

0

18

28

14

25

14

2

CPI(ML)

0

1

2

2

0

2

8

 

0

10

30

20

0

20

10

INC

13

16

12

20

23

29

31

 

1

11

15

11

33

26

3

IND

44

33

36

24

20

19

23

 

3

18

33

10

21

13

1

INLD

6

3

4

1

4

3

0

 

4

14

29

4

36

14

0

LJNSP

0

1

2

1

1

1

0

 

0

11

33

11

22

22

0

NCP

6

4

5

1

2

2

0

 

4

20

40

4

20

12

0

RLD

6

5

1

1

3

4

0

 

5

29

5

5

29

29

0

RSNM

0

3

2

1

6

3

0

 

0

11

15

4

52

19

0

 

0

11

15

4

52

19

0

SHS

0

1

5

2

1

0

0

 

0

7

16

13

20

0

0

SP

6

2

9

4

2

3

0

 

3

6

53

12

15

12

0

Total

2

14

25

11

28

18

2

* First row is column percentage (i.e. out of all illiterate candidates what proportion come from a particular party); second row shows the level of education of candidates from a party.

 

Outstanding debts: Approximately 600 candidates declared having no outstanding debts. The average debt is Rs 1.7 lakh. Naren Sahni tops the list with outstanding debts of just over Rs 3 crore. He is followed by Atar Singh, Brij Kishore and Gurmeet Singh who have debts in the range of Rs 70-90 lakh.

Education: Out of the 950 candidates, about 15% did not provide information about their educational attainment. Of those for whom this information is available, only two percent are illiterate. Nearly a third were graduates and one-fifth of the candidates were post-graduates (see Table 3).

 

 

This section uses caste information to get some clues about how well each caste group is represented in the electoral process. In the Rajasthan Assembly, 143 seats are general seats, 33 seats are reserved for scheduled castes and 24 for scheduled tribes.7 The Rajasthan State Election Commission also provides information on the caste of each candidate. Table 4 shows the preponderance of ‘general’ castes in the elections. Out of the 954 candidates for whom we had information on caste and party affiliation, more than two-third (64%) were from the general castes. Around one-fifth of the candidates were from the scheduled castes, and 13% were tribals. According to the 1991 census, SCs accounted for 17% of the total population of the state, whereas STs comprised 12%. Thus, the number of candidates from these communities compares quite favourably with their share in the population of Rajasthan.

 

TABLE 4

Party-wise Caste Groups of Electoral Candidates, 2003

Name of political party

Number of contestants*

Caste group

   

General

SC

ST

BJP

150

103

28

19

BSP

61

34

15

12

CPI

10

7

2

1

CPI(ML)(L)

2

0

0

2

CPM

8

5

2

1

CPI(ML)

2

1

1

0

INC

156

107

28

21

INLD

23

15

6

2

JD(S)

4

1

3

0

JD(U)

8

3

2

3

JP

3

1

0

2

LJNSP

14

8

6

0

NCP

29

15

5

9

RJD

4

4

0

0

RLD

21

13

8

0

RPD

12

9

2

1

RSNM

29

23

5

1

SHS

16

13

2

1

SP

37

23

7

7

Others

21

15

4

2

IND

223

140

56

27

TOTAL

831

540

182

109

* There are 1541 contestants from Rajasthan for which we received 903 affidavits. We were not able to use all the affidavits because some were incomplete, illegible, or for other reasons. The information presented in this table is for those 831 candidates for whom we have full information on caste and party affiliation.

 

However, this should not lead us to believe that the SCs and STs are well represented in the elections. Most (80%) of the SCs and STs contesting the elections are doing so from reserved seats. Most of the ST candidates belong to south Rajasthan where tribals form the majority of the population, and where most of the reserved ST seats are. It is rare that a person from the SC or ST contests an unreserved seat. Out of the 291 candidates who belonged to either scheduled castes or scheduled tribes, only 65 (approximately 20%) were contesting from unreserved seats. Generally, candidates from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been successful in getting tickets from the major parties largely due to the policy of reservation of seats for SCs and STs.

The reservation policy thus seems to have had mixed success. On the one hand, it has ensured that SCs and STs do get representation in electoral politics. However, it seems to have driven political parties to giving them representation only in the reserved seats. The tendency to give socially underprivileged castes tickets only in reserved seats seems to have been followed by most parties. The BJP and the Congress fielded only two candidates each (both STs) from unreserved seats. The BSP fielded the most number of SCs and STs from unreserved seats. Ten out of the 67 candidates that the BSP fielded are SCs or STs contesting from unreserved seats.

It is interesting that apart from social disadvantage suffered by these groups, their economic disadvantage is also apparent in electoral politics. To capture one aspect of this, we calculated the average total declared value of assets for each caste group. Here again, the general castes top the list with average total assets worth Rs 46 lakh, more than twice the average for SCs (Rs 17 lakh) or STs (Rs 20 lakh).

 

 

This section briefly describes some of the differences between the outgoing Vidhan Sabha and the newly elected assembly. The Congress had been in power since 1999 in Rajasthan with 153 MLAs (out of a total of 200) and the BJP was the main opposition party with 33 members. The position of these two parties has been somewhat reversed after the 2003 elections. Currently, the BJP has bagged 120 seats and the Congress has been left with just 56 seats. The rout of the Congress is being blamed, among other reasons, on the anti-incumbency factor and poor selection of candidates. For the 142 seats for which data is available with us, this anti-incumbency trend is clearly visible with only 30% candidates retaining their seats for a second term. Only 16% of Congress MLAs were re-elected, whereas more than 40% of the BJP candidates managed to get re-elected.

One-third of the contestants were either SC or ST. In the new Vidhan Sabha, one-third of the seats have been won by them. This high ‘success rate’ (i.e. proportion of candidates contesting to candidates winning) is not surprising, given the fact that most of the SC and ST stood from reserved seats.

 

 

The newly elected state assembly has, on average, younger representatives than in the previous assembly. The major change with respect to the age structure over the previous Vidhan Sabha is that the proportion of MLAs aged above 60 has declined from 34% to 22% and that of the under 40 age group has risen by about 7%. Given that the shift has been from Congress to BJP legislators it appears that, on average, Congress ones are older than BJP legislators. Overall though, the assembly remains dominated by older, rather than younger representatives. More MLAs are aged over sixty years (22%), than are under the age of forty. Less than a fifth of the new legislators are under the age of 40. The majority (60%) of MLAs are between 40-60 years of age.

 

TABLE 5

Distribution of Winners by Total Wealth*

Total assets

Losers

Winners

Total

Less than Rs 1,00,000

50

1

51

Between Rs 1,00,000 and Rs 25,00,000

229

(79)

62

(21)

291

Between Rs 25,00,000 and Rs 1,00,00,000

112

(61)

71

(39)

183

More than Rs 1,00,00,000

28

(50)

28

(50)

56

Total

419

162

581

* Figure in brackets indicate what proportion (%) of candidates in each class have won/lost the elections.

 

The importance of wealth in contesting elections and especially in winning them is brought out by the results. Table 5 shows a striking correspondence between the wealth category that a candidate belongs to and the probability of winning. As one rises up the wealth ladder, the probability of winning the election increases. It is highest for those who are self-declared crorepatis and the least for those who do not even make it to the rank of lakhpatis. Only one candidate out of 51 who declared assets worth less than Rs 1,00,000 won the election.

The gender composition too is not very encouraging: in the previous assembly, there were 14 women legislators of which 13 were from the Congress. In this election, the number of women legislators has declined to 11. The only gain, however, is that the current government is headed by a woman. The number of women contesting the elections has declined in these elections.

 

 

Some problems in the format of the affidavits have already been highlighted above. The first problem is that each candidate has reported his/her assets according to their interpretation of the information that is being asked for. Thus, in the case of non-agricultural land, one finds cases of non-agricultural rural and urban land; there is no way of ascertaining the quality of the land from the affidavits submitted by the candidate. In the case of agricultural land, there is no information about whether it is irrigated or unirrigated. It is important to issue some simple guidelines regarding how the affidavits need to be filled up.

The units in which land and gold and silver have been reported are not standard. In the case of agricultural land, it has been reported in bighas, acres, hectares etc. In the case of non-agricultural land, it has been reported in square feet, square yards, square meters, bighas, etc. Every imaginable unit of measurement has been used. The rate at which property has been evaluated is also not standard. Standardized rates are available from the collector’s office and it should be mandatory for candidates to use these rates. Also for candidates to provide complete information for each of the assets that they declare.

The biggest problem, however, is that we were unable to verify the information provided in the affidavits. The next step in this exercise would be to check the various ways in which candidates have understated, or used the affidavit to conceal rather than reveal. Assets have been hidden by undervaluing them, by giving incomplete information, and by simply not listing some assets.

 

 

Hopefully, in the coming months, the information that we have collected and compiled will be available on the internet and disseminated through parchas in all the relevant constituencies. We hope to create an interactive website where people can inform us about under-reporting of assets, lying about criminal records, and so on. In some cases, it is hoped that counter-affidavits will be filed against the candidates who have lied. Public hearings will be held to demonstrate the lies reported by the winners in their affidavits. These lies are related to various sections of their affidavits (not reporting some/all criminal charges against them, undervaluing property, lying about educational attainments). It is hoped that such public hearings will introduce a system of vigilance by citizens as well as political parties.

 

Footnotes:

* I would like to thank all those who were a part of Rajasthan Election Watch in Jaipur. This paper is, in some ways, a compilation of their views on the process. I would also like to thank Arudra Burra, Nikhil De (and other members of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana), Jean Dreze, Vivek Ramkumar and Yogendra Yadav for reading and giving further suggestions for this paper. Thanks also to Asha Khera and Mythri Prasad for helping with the data analysis.

 

1. For an account of this debate, see Jayaprakash Narayan, ‘Elections: disclosures now mandatory’, India Together. http://www.india together.org/2003/mar/law-ncerscverd.htm

2. In Rajasthan, the new disclosure norms do not apply to panchayat elections. However, in some other states, e.g. Karnataka, they apply to panchayat elections as well.

3. Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar (2003), ‘A strategy of micro-management pays off for the BJP’, The Hindu, 9 December. For an analysis of the Rajasthan election, see Yogendra Yadav, ‘Understanding the Rajasthan elections 2003’, The Hindu. Election Commission of India, ‘Statistical Report on General Election, 1998 to State Assembly of Rajasthan’, available at http://www.eci. gov.in/infoeci/key_stat/keystat_fs.htm

4. As it turned out, in our case accessing these documents was not difficult in most cases. We found that government officials did not create any trouble in providing access to these documents.

5. The category of financial assets includes cash, bank balances, other investments such as shares, bonds, debentures, mutual funds, etc. held by the candidate, their spouse and dependents.

6. Similar tactics have been used in the case of jewellery where weight of gold/silver may be reported but values are missing.

7. The reservation of seats is based on rules set down by the Representation of People’s Act, Section 330. The number of reserved seats are in proportion to the share of the SCs, and the STs, population in the total population.

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