Ministers in Congress-ruled states much wealthier than those in NDA ones

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been painting the country saffron by forming government in state after state, but its Cabinets in these states might have some catching up to do for matching the wealth accumulated by ministers in the Congress-ruled states over the years.

A Business Standard study on the wealth of state ministers in 22 states of India, based on data from Association of Democratic Reforms, shows that Congress-ruled Cabinets are much wealthier than their National Democratic Alliance (NDA) counterparts. A look at the declared wealth of ministers in 17 states ruled by BJP and its allies shows that the total wealth of 310 ministers in these states stands at Rs 3,032 crore – that translates into average wealth of almost Rs 10 crore per minister. By comparison, the total wealth of five Congress governments in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Megahalya and Mizoram – a total of 80 ministers – is Rs 1,732 crore. This is more than half the total wealth of all NDA state Cabinets. In effect, each Congress state Cabinet is worth Rs 346 crore, almost twice as much as the average for NDA-led ones at Rs 178 crore; and, each Congress minister in these five states is worth Rs 22 crore.
Some BJP-ruled states where figures were not clear, such as Arunachal Pradesh, were kept out of this analysis. Non-NDA, non-Congress states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal, Kerala, Telangana, Tripura and Delhi were also kept out of this study. Bihar, where BJP successfully dismembered the grand alliance and joined the Nitish Kumar Cabinet last month, was included as an NDA state.

The total and average wealth of Congress ministers is primarily contributed by Karnataka, where Income-Tax (IT) authorities have raided Congress MLAs and cash worth crores have been allegedly recovered. Only one minister in Karnataka’s cabinet had declared wealth of less than Rs 1 crore in his affidavit to the Election Commission of India. Among the remaining 31 Congress ministers, three of them own assets worth more than Rs 100 crore. Meanwhile one Congress minister in the Karnataka cabinet, D K Shivakumar, on whom I-T raids have been primarily directed, has declared his wealth in excess of Rs 250 crore. Congress ministers in the state are worth almost Rs 38 crore on an average.

The situation is not that different for the Congress in Punjab, where it came to power in state elections held earlier this year. Although the state cabinet is just 12 minister strong, the combined wealth of these ministers is Rs 345 crore. The richest Congress minister in Punjab is liquor baron Rana Gurjit Singh. Meanwhile BJP turncoat Navjot Sidhu, now also a minister in the Amarinder Singh cabinet is worth almost Rs 45 crore. Every Punjab minister’s wealth was almost Rs 28 crore on an average.

Just about half the wealth of BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ministers also emanates from one southern state – Andhra Pradesh. The BJP has two ministers in the 26 minister strong Chandrababu Naidu cabinet and is the junior alliance partner of Naidu’s Telegu Desam Party (TDP) in the state. Among the ministers of Naidu’s party, it is he and his son who together are worth almost Rs 500 crore. Naidu’s cabinet is worth almost Rs 1,200 crore. Every NDA minister in the state is therefore worth almost Rs 48 crore – the highest among all states in the study.

A look at the personal wealth of ministers in states where the CM belongs to the BJP and it’s not in alliance with any other party shows that almost all of them are crorepatis. For instance, in Rajasthan headed by BJP stalwart Vasundhara Raje, 16 out of the 17 ministers are self-declared multi-millionaires. The wealthiest minister in Raje’s council of ministers is Rampratap, a farmer from the opium producing district of Hanumanngarh. Rampratap had declared assets of almost Rs 27 crore during the last elections. In Gujarat, where the BJP has ruled unchallenged since 2002, just four of the 25 ministers are not crorepatis. Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, another BJP bastion where it hasn’t faced any opposition since 2005, 26 out of the 29 ministers have assets of more than Rs 1 crore. The total net worth of the Shivraj Chouhan cabinet in the state is almost Rs 272 crore. The richest candidate in the Chouhan cabinet, Sanjay Pathak has valued himself at Rs 142 crore.

A look at the North Eastern states of Mizoram and Meghalaya where the Congress is in power shows that its ministers are wealthier than other NDA ruled states in the region with the exception of Nagaland. Congress ministers in Mizoram and Meghalaya are worth Rs 3 crore and Rs 5 crore respectively. Meanwhile ministers of BJP and its allies in states like Assam and Manipur have declared their average wealth just above Rs 2 crore and Rs 1 crore respectively.

The average net-worth of each minister in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is Rs 7 crore, Rs 5.5 crore and Rs 10 crore respectively – significantly less than that of Congress ruled states. For that matter, Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK ministers, given to ostentatious display of wealth, are significantly poorer than their Congress counterparts in Punjab and Karnataka, with average networth of just Rs 4.5 crore.

Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh go to the polls later this year while elections in Karnataka are scheduled in 2018. With the BJP expected to retain Gujarat and have a fighting chance in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, the political fortunes of the Congress might be hit harder than the personal wealth of its ministers.

Ministers in Congress-ruled states much wealthier than those in NDA ones

Why Arvind Panagariya couldn’t become Montek Singh Ahluwalia for NDA-2

NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya’s move to relinquish his post might have come as a surprise to many given that he was considered a key advisor of the Narendra Modi-lead National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, but for many it was just a matter of time, due to the peculiar nature of relationship between the Aayog and the government.

Post-disbanding of the Planning Commission of India, in 2015 NITI Aayog was constituted as a successor to the over six-decade-old organisation though with much less powers; but quite larger domain and a unique relationship with the government.

The Aayog was free to give advice to the government, but none of it was binding on it and without the financial might of a Planning Commission it had limited means to enforce them both on the Centre and state governments.

 

The organisation, which was expected to spearhead India’s reform agenda and give cutting edge and path-breaking ideas, ended up acting merely as executor of ideas and initiatives decided somewhere, many experts noted.

That said, the Aayog did introduce some good ideas and initiated reforms within its limited scope and domain. Among them reforming the agriculture markets, laws to legalise land leases in states, preparation of the three-year action agenda, working with the states to rejig the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), initiating reforms in educational and technical institutions, spearheading the digital drive and setting up tinkering labs in schools are few notable moves.

Although many of the reform measures were instructed from the top and executed by the Aayog, it handled them efficiently.

The ministries and departments, which are the nodal agencies for execution of NITI Aayog’s ideas, sometimes went along with it; while at other times were not so amiable. The Coal Ministry’s reported objections to the draft Energy Policy is a case in point.

Panagariya after initial hiccups in dealing with a well-settled bureaucracy and administration found his going rather smooth.

Insiders said he did initially find it difficult to get the rank and pay of a cabinet minister, which was settled later on. It also put in place a well-settled hierarchy in NITI Aayog and brought it somewhat on par with the erstwhile Planning Commission.

In the Planning Commission, the deputy chairman was of cabinet rank and attended all cabinet meetings and was authorised to give expert comments on most cabinet notes.

But, apart from a cabinet rank, Panagariya never enjoyed the proximity and personal rapport that his predecessor Montek Singh Ahluwalia had with the then prime minister Manmohan Singh. In the case of the later, the closeness came from years of working together in different positions within the government.

The rapport also ensured that Planning Commission’s voice was heard with much more sincerity in the corridors of power, something which the new vice-chairman will need to address quickly if he wants to make his mark.

Why Arvind Panagariya couldn’t become Montek Singh Ahluwalia for NDA-2