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2019-04-09

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Indian Polity
www.thehindu.com

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It is an interesting facet of a changing India: there are ever greater numbers of crorepatis in the Lok Sabha, as well as among those who aspire to become MPs. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 430 out of the 521 sitting MPs in the Lok Sabha have assets worth more than ₹1 crore. In other words, 83% of our lawmakers are crorepatis. That makes them a rich people’s club governing a largely poor country.

There was a time when members of most legacy business and industrial houses of the country stuck to their business of doing business and left politics to politicians. During the License Raj, politicians were content accepting donations from businessmen or seeking jobs for their kin. But business and politics never intersected with each other. However, there were exploratory undercurrents across the dividing line.

Come 1991, that changed. Liberalisation altered India’s economic present and future. There was a permanent severance from the country’s socialist economic past. The nouveau riche saw politics and political power as a means to first secure and then expand their business interests. It is a truism that business and politics share a symbiotic relationship. Today, they have almost become one, necessitating a new definition of businessman-politician or politician-businessman. The hyphenation is not semantic or syntactical, but reflects the emergence of a new class.

Konda Vishweshwar Reddy, an engineer-turned-businessman-turned-politician and former Telagana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MP, is now the Congress candidate from Chevella, near Hyderabad. His declared family assets are over ₹895 crore (the major share of which belongs to his wife). Nama Nageswar Rao, the TRS candidate from Khammam Lok Sabha seat who is a former Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP, is the founder of Madhucon Projects. He was among the richest Lok Sabha candidates in the 2014 elections with declared assets worth ₹338 crore. In Andhra Pradesh, Jaydev Galla of the TDP is the managing director of Amara Raja Batteries and has declared assets worth over ₹600 crore. These are just a few crossover examples. There are of course plenty of examples from other States too.

As Walter Annenberg, American businessman and diplomat, posited, “The greatest power is not money power but political power.” It suffices to say that the heady mix of economic and political power is even more intoxicating than either of its stand-alone constituents.

The writer is Editorial Consultant, The Hindu, and is based in Hyderabad

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