How rep­re­sen­ta­tive are our rep­re­sen­ta­tives?

The ADR re­port shows there is a wide gap be­tween the in­comes of vot­ers and lead­ers

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Comment -

In­dia’s gen­eral elec­tions are not just one of the most com­plex ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­er­cises in the world, they also at­tract a wide va­ri­ety of can­di­dates from dif­fer­ent so­cial and eco­nomic back­grounds. Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion for Demo­cratic Re­forms (ADR), nearly a fifth or 19% of the close to 8,000 can­di­dates con­test­ing the 2019 Lok Sabha polls have crim­i­nal cases pend­ing against them, while 29% have as­sets worth ~1 crore or more. Over the years, the num­ber of can­di­dates with crim­i­nal cases against them has in­creased as have the as­sets of can­di­dates. The share of can­di­dates with crim­i­nal cases in­creased from 15% to 19% be­tween the 2009 and 2019 elec­tions, while the share of crorepati can­di­dates in­creased from 16% to 29%.

While the ADR re­port re­veals a lot of what is wrong in the po­lit­i­cal process, it also highlights an im­por­tant is­sue. Can­di­dates are meant to be rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the elec­torate. But the fig­ures re­veal that is not the case. While nearly a fifth of the can­di­dates have crim­i­nal cases pend­ing, it is un­likely that one-fifth of the coun­try’s vot­ers have cases against them. Can­di­dates are also far richer than the vot­ers they rep­re­sent. For ex­am­ple, 50% can­di­dates con­test­ing the 2019 elec­tions own net as­sets worth less than ~23.1 lakh. But, ac­cord­ing to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Re­port 2018, 50% In­di­ans had wealth worth less than $1,289 or about ~90,617 at the cur­rent exchange rate. Many of In­dia’s po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates could not be more dif­fer­ent from the vot­ers they rep­re­sent.

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