Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rich MPs, poor people

Another election season is upon us. It’s a good idea to focus on more basic questions: Do political representatives make any difference, to the state they’re from, or to the castes they represent; how representative are our MLAs/MPs; does only money-power matter? Do representatives from poorer states tend to be relatively wealthier in comparison to their population, than those from richer states? Does being rich ensure electoral success or is it tied to the performance of the party? Using data from Empowering India initiative, Sunil Jain seeks some answers in his column in Business Standard.

Now that election season is upon us, we’ll be bombarded by all manner of analyses, pre-election surveys on voting behaviour, post-election analyses on whether people voted their caste or just cast their vote; and so on. Till then, it’s a good idea to focus on more basic questions: Do political representatives make any difference, to the state they’re from, or to the castes they represent (are OBCs in Bihar any better off after 15 years of Lalu-raj?); indeed, are our MLAs/MPs even representative in the true sense of the term; does only money-power matter?

As for whether our MPs/MLAs are representative of us, the answer is mostly a ‘no’. By and large, the poorer the state, the richer the MP/MLA. One way of rationalising this is to say that political leaders have always belonged to the aristocracy — one look at the education levels of our MPs/MLAs, however, makes it clear this is not the case here. That this should happen, though, is no surprise — the poorer a state, the higher the chances of it being badly governed, and so the greater the scope/need for MPs/MLAs to have the power to dispense favours. Visit the Liberty Institute’s website (http://www.empoweringindia.org/new/home.aspx) if you want a lot more data, to construct and run econometric models especially.

  • Maharashtra has amongst the highest per capita incomes in India (if you leave out small states like Delhi) and, on average, its MPs declared assets of around Rs 110 lakh in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, ranging from Rs 64 lakh for the Shiv Sena to Rs 191 lakh for the Congress Party (Rs 65 lakh for Shiv Sena MLAs to Rs 133 lakh for Congress MLAs). Surprisingly, however, Andhra Pradesh, which has a 30 per cent lower per capita income, has MPs whose average assets are around 4.5 times as high at Rs 490 lakh (TDP MLAs in Andhra had an average asset-base of Rs 190 lakh and the figure was Rs 116 lakh for Congress MLAs); Punjab MPs are the richest (its per capita income is around a tenth lower but its MPs are around six times as wealthy with average assets of Rs 672 lakh).
  • Gujarat MPs/MLAs are the paragon of virtue when it comes to their wealth (the state’s per capita is around 8 per cent lower than Maharashtra and its MPs have assets which are around 40 per cent lower). Poorer states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh are the real shocker. Bihar’s per capita income is a fifth that of Maharashtra, yet its MPs are just a tenth less wealthy (Rs 101 lakh for Bihar versus Rs 110 lakh for Maharashtra) — Bihar MLAs, however, have assets that average around Rs 20 lakh as compared to three-four times that for Maharashtra MLAs. UP, similarly, has a per capita income that’s a little over a third that of Maharashtra, but its MPs are a third wealthier. Madhya Pradesh has a per capita income that’s 40 per cent that of Maharashtra, but its MPs are just 14 per cent less wealthy.

Read the full story here:
Business Standard

No comments:

Post a Comment