Monday, May 18, 2009

Money Mantra Makes MPs

By Roger Alexander

With as many as 300 crorepatis — nearly double of 154 in the last Lok Sabha – becoming MPs, the 15th Lok Sabha can no longer be called the House of the People. With 55.25% crorepati members, it is now the House of the Privileged!

If more than half of the MPs are crorepatis, you can be sure that the rest are equally rich for many have benami and hidden assets that are not known. In fact the Election Commission has confirmed that a large number of candidates did not file their PAN details, meaning they do not pay Income Tax. So the number of crorepatis could be much higher.

There have been reports that many of these worthies bought their nominations from the parties they now represent. Indeed, money can't buy you love, but it can buy you power and pelf.

As news reports indicate, these crorepatis spent vast sums to buy votes to get 'elected' to the Lok Sabha. To put it differently, it is akin to buying sex for pleasure. This not only scandalous but disgusting as well and nothing short of the prostitution of Parliament.

And given the class character of the ruling alliance it comes as no
surprise that eight of the 10 richest MPs in the list belong to the Congress and its ally NCP. In all, all 45% of the crorepati MPs belong to Congress (137).

The Opposition benches are also adorned by crorepatis, exposing the class character of India's body politic. 20% of crorepati MPs belong to the BJP (58), a shade less than 5% to the Samajwadi Party (14) and more than 4% to the BSP (13).

These parties are followed by DMK and Shiv Sena. Interestingly, the JD(U) has the seventh biggest group of crorepatis in the new House.

The Rajya Sabha too boasts of similar figures, with half the members in the crorepati bracket.

The wealthiest MP in the new Lok Sabha (sic) is Namma Nageswara Rao of TDP, elected from Khammam in Andhra Pradesh. He is worth Rs 173 crore. Rao is followed by steel baron Naveen Jindal (Congress) from Kurukshetra with assets of Rs 131 crore.

Others at the top of the crorepati club are L Rajagopal (Congress), Praful Patel (NCP), Supriya Sule (NCP), Rajkumari Ratna Singh of Pratapgarh (Congress) and Andhra chief minister YSR Reddy's son YS Rajamohan Reddy.

Amongst states, the most crorepatis are from UP (52), followed by Maharastra (37), Andhra Pradesh (31) and Karnataka (25), Bihar (17), Tamil Nadu (17) and MP (15). Gujarat, at number 10, has sent 12 crorepatis to the new House this time.

All the 7 Congress MPs from Delhi are crorepatis. All the 13 MPs from Punjab are crorepatis. Both winners from Arunachal Pradesh are crorepatis. Three of the four Himachal MPs are crorepatis, and three of five from Uttarakhand are also in the same league.

Even Bengal and Kerala, where the Congress and its allies scored a thumping victory over the Left, elected 10 and 4 crorepatis respectively. And in India's poorest states – Bihar (17/40), Rajasthan (14/25), Orissa (6/21), Jharkhand (5/14), and Chhattisgarh (2/11) – crorepatis virtually 'bought' their way to the Lok Sabha.

Small states and Union Territories that elect only one MP each – Sikkim, Meghalaya, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Puducherry, Chandigarh, and Lakshdweep – have the dubious distinction of returning only crorepati candidates, making it a 100% strike rate for the moneybags.

Unlike previous years, the class character of the 15th Lok Sabha now mirrors the Indian state. Only fat-cat capitalists and landlords will control the levers of the state and swagger in the corridors of power for the next five years.

Not surprisingly, it is party-time for the rich, richer, and richest. News reports have revealed just who was partying after the victory of their candidates in the general election. This party was caught on TV cameras at Dalal Street (home of the Bombay Stock Exchange) on Monday, May 18 – the first day of trading after the results were announced.

On 'Memorable Monday' the 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex posted its biggest ever gain of over 2,100 points in just one-minute trade.

Cheering the decisive win of the Congress, 'investors' – who constitute less than 2% of India's population that invests in stocks - became richer by a whopping Rs 6,500,000,000,000 (Rs 6.5 trillion) in just 60 seconds!

Investor wealth, measured in terms of the combined market capitalisation of all the listed companies, increased by over Rs 6,564,770,000,000 crore (Rs 6.56 trillion) in a minute to Rs 44,634,209,700,000 (Rs 44.634 trillion).

If this money was to be distributed among the entire populace – men, women, and children – every Indian would be richer by about Rs 45,000, i.e. six years of income earned through blood, sweat and tears for each of India's 835 million citizens who subsist on Rs 20 per day!

Unfortunately, that's not how capitalism works. The 30 Sensex companies that account for over 47 per cent of the total market capitalisation of all the firms, saw their combined market valuation rise by over Rs 3,160,000,000,000 (Rs 3.16 trillion).

The combined market capitalisation of the 30 blue-chip stocks rose to Rs 21,535,900,900,000 (Rs 21.536 trillion) on Monday, from Rs 183,684,133,000,000 (Rs 183.68 trillion) at the end of trade on May 15 when it was assumed that it would be a hung Parliament.

And who were the biggest gainers? The top five were the Anil Ambani's firms Reliance Communication and Reliance Infrastructure, engineering major Larsen & Toubro, the flagship company of Jaypee Group Jaiprakash Associates and the country's largest private sector lender ICICI Bank.

Other major gainers in the index were Kushal Pal Singh's DLF (16.62%), Anil Agarwal's Sterlite Industries (16.53%), Kumar Mangalam Birla's Hindalco Industries (15.06%), and Sunil Mitta's Bharti Airtel (14.53%). Partially privatised PSUs BHEL and SBI also posted gains.

Indeed, there is an unprecedented sense of jubilation among the super-rich because with the Left losing heavily, all the so-called reforms that all of Manmohan Singh's pet schemes that were scuttled by the Left for five years – disinvestment of all PSUs, especially navaratnas, FDI in retail, opening of the insurance sector to foreign companies, sale of public sector banks, hire-and-fire labour policies, speculative trading in foodgrains and other commodities (in short every sector where easy money is to made selling the family silver) – will now be rolled out with much fanfare in the name of economic reforms to fuel India's 'growth story'.

Market pundits say during the coming week foreign institutional investors will start pumping in fresh funds to avail the golden opportunity to loot India.

The Congress's Left-less victory over the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has revived hopes of a slew of pro-market policy changes that would take Indian markets to new highs in the coming days. Understandably, the mood is that of "Jai Ho!", as many headlines in the corporate media and blogs suggest.

In the last Lok Sabha, the Left was in a position to force the government to launch pro-poor measures like the NREG, RTI, Forest Rights Act, and farm loan waivers besides increased spending in the social sector and agriculture - ironically measures that paid the Congress handsome dividends in this election - despite resistance from the likes of Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia who complained “there was no money to fund such 'populist' schemes”.

But now that the number of crorepatis in the Lok Sabha has doubled, there are hardly and votaries of the toiling masses who will protest against injustices meted out to the poor and marginalised.

Indeed, because of the Left Front's poor showing, there will hardly be anyone other than the 24 Left MPs who will raise their voice on behalf of the over 77 per cent of the populace, or an estimated 836 million people, who earn an income of Rs 20 per day and over 300 million living below the poverty line.

Since the Left parties now constitute only a droplet in an ocean of crorepatis in Parliament, they have no choice other than taking the people's struggles to the streets and farms in the interest of a just society, not a Crorepati Club.

(This entry has been edited after it was first posted)

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