Kashmir Scan, Dec 2014
By Gowhar Geelani
If you happen to be a candidate in the fray for either Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly or parliamentary polls in Jammu and Kashmir, you need not to dream about participating in ‘Koun Banega Maha Crorepati’ (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?), a hugely popular game show hosted by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, because most of them seem to be Crorepatis anyway.
The five-phase polls for the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, commencing November 25, are attention-grabbing in more than one way.
One, these elections are being held in the backdrop of the worst floods in Kashmir’s living memory (September 7, 2014) which affected nearly 1.5 million people; two, these are being organized in freezing weather conditions; three, the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party has unveiled its dubious ‘Mission 44+’ with an aim to form a government in J&K; four, some ex-bureaucrats, businessmen, broadcasters and journalists are contesting polls for the first time. These include noted economist Haseeb Drabu, business tycoon Altaf Bukhari and journalist-turned politician Zafar Meraj.
At the time of 2014 parliamentary polls, there were at least 27 crorepati candidates from entire Jammu and Kashmir.
As per the details furnished in the affidavits submitted along with nomination papers filed for these elections, every third Lok Sabha candidate from J&K was a crorepati.
Peoples Democratic Party’s leader and now Member of Parliament, Tariq Hamid Karra was the richest of them. In his property statement he had declared that his assets were to the tune of Rs 100 crore.
Overall, there were 78 candidates in the fray for six parliamentary seats from J&K.
There seems to be a long list of crorepatis in the 2014 assembly polls too.
As many as 123 candidates are in the fray for the first-phase of five-phased assembly polls and quite surprisingly 46 of them have assets worth more than Rs 1 crore. The average assets per candidate contesting the first-phase of the polls are Rs 1.38 crore. Out of the 123 candidates, 46 (37 percent) are crorepatis.
Among the 123 contesting candidates in the first phase of polls, the analysis done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) suggests that the National Conference has nine crorepatis, Peoples Democratic Party seven, Bharatiya Janata Party six, Congress five, and Peoples Conference two.
So, who are these crorepatis?
PDP’s Yasir Reshi, who is contesting polls from Sonawari assembly constituency in Bandipora district, has assets worth Rs 13 crore. This number includes both movable and immovable assets.
Housing and Urban Development Minister, Nawang Rigzin Jora, has reported a net worth of Rs 4.12 crore in his affidavit filed along with nomination papers for 2014 assembly polls. He contests elections from Leh in the mountainous Ladakh region. In the last assembly polls, Jora had declared assets of Rs 3 crore, which means there is 35 percent increase in the valuation of his assets since 2008. The Congress man from Leh is seeking a third term.
Mercurial Education Minister and former Speaker of the J&K Legislative Assembly, Muhammad Akbar Lone, is also one of the crorepati candidates. In his affidavit, Lone has declared assets worth Rs 7.6 crore, which is a whopping 125 percent increase since 2008. While filing nominations during the last assembly elections in 2008, NC candidate Lone had reported assets worth Rs 3.5 crore. Interestingly, like Jora, the former LA Speaker is also seeking a third term, but from Sonawari assembly constituency.
Another bigwig and crorepati from National Conference (NC) is Mian Altaf Ahmad, who fights polls from Kangan, his family’s bastion since decades. In 2008, Altaf had shown assets worth Rs 1.77 crore, but in 2014 NC’s important candidate from Ganderbal district has declared in his affidavit that his assets had gone up to Rs 13 crore, an increase of over 450 percent. Mian Altaf is seeking a record fifth-term from Kangan assembly segment.
The biggest surprise in relation to declared assets comes from yet another National Conference candidate Sajad Ahmad Kitchloo, who is fighting polls from the sensitive Kishtwar constituency. According to the details submitted by Kitchloo in his affidavit, he has assets worth Rs 22.50 crore. In the previous polls, Kitchloo’s stated assets stood at Rs 10.50 crore. There is an increase of over 100 percent in Kitchloo’s declared assets since last elections. He is seeking a third-term.
Sajad Shaheen, NC’s candidate from Banihal assembly segment in Ramban district, has declared assets worth Rs 5 crore plus. PDP’s candidate from the same constituency Bashir Ahmad Runyal has assets to the tune of Rs 3 crore.
Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate from Bhaderwah in Doda district too has assets worth more than Rs 5 crore.
The average assets of the candidates contesting polls in the first-phase on NC’s ticket are Rs 3.9 crore, PDP’s candidates are Rs 2.42 crore, Congress’ candidates Rs 1.43 crore, BJP’s candidates Rs 1.40 crore. These figures are based on the analysis done by the ADR on a selected list of candidates from each political party.
On the flipside, not every candidate is a crorepati though. Nazir Ahmad Raina fighting polls on BJP’s ticket from Kangan constituency has assets less than Rs 25,000. Muhammad Yusuf, an independent candidate from Doda, has total assets worth Rs 46,000.
All said and done, there is no dearth of crorepati candidates in Kashmir!