In an election where the issue of corruption has been under constant spotlight, the party’s choice of CM candidate and the rehabilitation of the Reddy brothers speaks volumes.
At an election rally in Karnataka’s Gadag on May 5, campaigner-par-excellence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, attacked the Congress over graft, saying the party has built a “corruption tank that was filled with money looted from people in Karnataka, whose pipeline opened directly in Delhi”.
While the BJP has led the way, the Congress has not done much better. Photo: PTI
The prime minister also accused the Congress of selling poll tickets and the chief minister’s post through a tender process to the highest bidder.
One wonders what the PM would say about his own party, which has given the most number of tickets to leaders with criminal backgrounds and crorepatis, a fact that was revealed after an analysis of candidates’ poll affidavits by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) along with Karnataka Election Watch.
According to the ADR report: “Among major parties, 83 (37 per cent) out of 224 candidates from BJP, 59 (27 per cent) out of 220 candidates analysed from Indian Nataional Congress, 41 (21 per cent) out of 199 candidates analysed from Janata Dal Secular (JDS), five (20 per cent) out of 25 candidates analysed from Janata Dal United (JDU), five (19 per cent) out of 27 candidates analysed from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and 108 (10 per cent) out of 1,090 independent candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.”
Among moneybags too, the BJP has led the way, though the Congress was not too far behind, in an election in which 33 per cent candidates are crorepatis. Of the BJP’s 223 candidates, 208 (93 per cent) have declared assets worth more than Rs 1 crore. A total of 207 (94 per cent) of the 220 candidates from the Congress, 154 (77 per cent) of the 199 candidates from Janata Dal Secular and 199 (18 per cent) of the 1,090 independents have declared assets worth over Rs 1 crore.
In an election where the issue of corruption has been under constant spotlight, the BJP’s choice of CM candidate and the rehabilitation of the Reddy brothers betrays the fact that the nexus between money, muscle power and politics is strengthening instead of weakening.
Mining taint on clean governance
For the BJP, the report flies in the face of everything that the party professes on the national stage. The Karnataka campaign by its star campaigners – PM Modi and Amit Shah – has betrayed a rather hysterical note. While Shah has made uncharacteristic mistakes – he called the party’s CM candidate BS Yeddyurappa “the most corrupt” – Modi has accused the Congress of defaming Bellary “even though it was well-governed between the 14th and 17th centuries”.
This is possibly because the “clean governance” party has been on the back foot over its obvious inability to do without Yeddyurappa and the mining baron trio of the Reddy brothers, whose scams and scandals had brought down the last BJP government in Karnataka.
While the BJP’s fortunes in the once Congress stronghold of Bellary have been built almost entirely on the money of the mining-scam accused Reddys, the ADR report now shows criminal taint on the party in other constituencies too. As it relentlessly chases its dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat, Karnataka is an important prize. Thus, while claims of clean governance dominate campaigns, money and muscle are deciding candidates.
The Congress has not done any better. Percentage-wise, it has fielded the most number of millionaire candidates, with the three richest candidates – Priya Krishna, from Govindarajanagar constituency, with assets worth Rs 1,020 crore, N Nagaraju from Hosakote, with assets worth Rs 1,015 crore, and the state energy minister DK Shivakumar from Kanakapura, with assets ruuing into Rs 840 crore – all belonging to it.
Karnatakas’s average per capita income, according to the state government’s latest economic survey (2015–16), is Rs 1,26,976.
It is anybody’s guess as to how much are these crorepati candidates likely to connect with the issues concerning the aam aadmi.
Criminality has long been an accepted part of Indian politics. According to a study published in The Economist, over the past three general elections in our country, a “candidate with a rap sheet of serious charges has had an 18 per cent chance of winning his or her race, compared with six per cent for a ‘clean’ rival.”
Post 2014, the country’s politics has seen a transformational shake-up, with BJP capturing state after state and reshaping the public narrative around dominant issues. However, as far as money and crime in politics are concerned, the more things change, the more they remain the same.