How to grow your assets by 81,465%? Ask him.

In the 66 constituencies going to the polls today in the second phase of elections to the Karnataka legislative assembly, there are just 14 women candidates; 49 candidates with a criminal record; and 372 candidates whose assets in all exceed Rs 902 crore, according to a report prepared by the Karnataka Election Watch committee of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Among the major parties, the BJP has 13 candidates with a criminal record, the Congress 9, JDS 8, BSP 7, and other parties 12. There are 6 candidates who are charged with murder or attempt to murder.

There are 14 women candidates. The BSP has 4, BJP 2, Congress 2, JDS 2, JDU 2 and others 2. In the first phase there were a total of 17 women candidates from the major parties for the 89 constituencies. The total percentage of women is less than 5% as in the first phase.

The total assets declared by all the 372 candidates considered by KEW for phase 2 was an impressive Rs 902 crore, with average candidate assets of Rs 2.42 crore. The Congress led the parties with total declared candidate assets of Rs 470 crore and average candidate assets of Rs 7.35 crore. The BJP candidates had total assets of Rs 249.8 crores and average of Rs.3.78 crore; JDS Rs 77.9 crore and Rs.1.28 crore; BSP Rs 40.6 crore and Rs.0.64 crore.

The three major parties account for 88.5% of total candidate assets with average candidate assets of Rs.4.18 crores. Clearly, elections have become a rich man’s game. There are 5 candidates who have declared “Very High” assets of over Rs 30 crore. Of these, 3 are from the Congress, 2 are from the BJP. Compared to phase 1 which included Bangalore, the number has come down from 14 to 5.

# Anil Lad of the Congress is the richest among the candidates in the fray with declared assets of Rs 172 crore, jumping 2,343 per cent since 2004.

# R.V. Deshpande of the Congress, whose assets since 2004 have jumped 2,091 per cent, has declared assets of Rs 116.29 crore.

# The assets of G.S. Manjunath, the BJP candidate from Chitradurga, have shot up by an eye-popping 2,125 per cent since the 2004 elections.

# The BJP candidate from Holalkere, M. Chandrappa, has seen his assets grow by 2,107 per cent. The assets of his Congress rival H. Anjaneya (in picture) have grown by—hold your breath—81,465 per cent, according to KEW.

Then there are 17 candidates who have “High Assets” between Rs 5 crore and Rs 30 crore. In spite of having such high assets, some of them have not declared their IT PAN numbers as required by the Election Commission.

As many as 74 candidates reported a very steep increase in total assets between the 2004 Assembly Elections and this election. The average increase in assets was a huge 465.6%.

There are 49 candidates with a criminal record. Among the major parties, the BJP has 13 candidates having a criminal record, BSP has 7, the Congress 9, JDS 8, and other parties 12. There are 6 candidates who are charged with murder or attempt to murder.

Of the 372 candidates considered in phase 2, 31 had post-graduate degrees, 26 had technical degrees (like BE, etc), 6 MBBS, 47 LLB, 97 graduates, 48 PUC, 49 matriculates, 35 non-matriculates. The rest did not mention their educational qualifications. The number of candidates who were 60 years old or more was 41, between 45 and 60 was 171, and less than 45 was 160.

KEW’s conclusion: The overall quality of candidates leaves much to be desired. The criminal records in particular are a little alarming. Unless this trend is checked, elections, democracy and overall governance will suffer. A lot of candidates are industrialists from the real estate, liquor, mining and other businesses. Unless business interests are aligned to citizen interests this raises interesting questions about governance and democracy. The average assets of candidates from the major parties was Rs.4.18 crores which means that the parties have turned their back on candidates with low assets. A lot of candidates have reported huge increase in their assets. This also needs to be investigated so that public trust is restored.

(Karnataka Election Watch (KEW) is part of a nationwide movement to improve democracy. It is a citizen-led non-political, non-partisan effort. This time several NGOs activists and civil society organizations in Karnataka are participating in this effort.)

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News