Sunday 23 October 2011

The Criminalization of Indian Politics - Part 1

The Criminalization of Indian Politics – Part I

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 23rd October 2011

Copyright © Dr. Seshadri Kumar.  All Rights Reserved.

Please visit for other articles by Dr. Seshadri Kumar


Introduction and Motivation

My interest in this subject started with the whole Om Puri/Kiran Bedi controversy that happened during Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption fast at Ramlila maidan in New Delhi in August 2011.  During that event, on one memorable evening, Team Anna activist Kiran Bedi mocked politicians as hypocrites, and actor Om Puri railed against politicians, calling them such things as “anpadh” (illiterate), “ganwar” (ignorant), and “lootere” (robbers / thieves).  An angry parliament soon after decided not to take these insults lying down and issued “breach of privilege” notices against Kiran Bedi, Om Puri, and a few others.

While my initial reaction to this was to look at the legality of these notices, and I have written extensively on that point (see, for example, and, I also wanted to know the answers to some questions:

1.      How criminal, indeed, are our politicians?
2.     How true, exactly, was Om Puri when he called MPs lootere and anpadh?

ADR – The Association for Democratic Reforms

So I started searching the internet for answers.  And I found some great stuff online at the website of an organization called Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) (  Here they have collected information on various facts, including the declared assets of all MPs and MLAs, the pending criminal cases against our MPs/MLAs, and many other facts worth knowing about our honourable representatives, based on affidavits signed by the honourable members themselves.

While I found the website itself very useful, I wanted to look at the data a bit closer, so I asked ADR to provide me some of the raw data, which I could mine for more information, which they were kind enough to do.  I have been mining that data for more trends.  But before I present that research, I first wanted to highlight the excellent work that ADR has been doing as essential background reading so people give credit where it is due.

This first part article is based chiefly on this ADR report:,%20financial%20&%20educational%20analysis%20LS%202009.pdf.  While it is a great report with excellent research, it suffers from one major deficiency, viz., the data is presented in tabular rather than graphical form.  I have always believed in the old maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words, and so my chief contribution in this article is to convert their report into graphical form so people can easily capture what is in the report, as well as provide some commentary.

High-level Trends

An overall picture can be understood by absorbing the following points:

·       The number of Lok Sabha members of the 2009 House with pending criminal cases against them is a whopping 162 out of 543, or nearly 30% of the entire house.  This is an increase of nearly 27% from the corresponding number (128) in 2004.

·       The number of LS members in 2009 with serious pending criminal cases is 76 out of 543, or 14%, an increase of 31% over the 58 members in 2004.

·       The total number of pending criminal cases against House members is 522 in 2009, compared to 429 in 2004.

·       The total number of serious IPC (Indian Penal Code) charges was 275 in 2009, as opposed to 296 in 2004.  (see Appendix for what is considered “serious.”)

·       The last mentioned statistic is the only ameliorating one in the series of dismal trends.  It indicates a reduction in violent crime among the charges attributed to the honourable members, and indicates a shift towards other, “lesser” crimes, such as false statements under oath, promoting enmity between different groups, giving false evidence, etc.

·       There were 156 crorepatis (valued in excess of Rs. 1,00,00,000 = $200,000 at the current exchange rate) in the 2004 LS, compared to 315 in the 2009 LS, an increase of 159, or 102%.

·       302 MPs, who were elected in 2004, contested for re-election in 2009.  Their average asset value in 2004 was Rs. 1.92 cr. and in 2009 was Rs. 4.8 cr., an increase of Rs. 2.9 cr, or 289%, which comes to an annual ROI of 60%.  Clearly, politics is the best investment in India.

·       The average asset value of an MP rose from Rs. 1.86 crores in 2004 to Rs. 5.33 crores in 2009, a 186% increase.

·       Wealthy candidates had a significantly higher chance of winning elections
1.      32.65% of the candidates worth Rs. 5 crores or more won
2.     18.47% of the candidates worth Rs. 50 lakhs to Rs. 5 crores won
3.     6.28% of the candidates worth Rs. 10 lakhs to Rs. 50 lakhs won
4.     Only 0.43% of the candidates worth less than Rs. 10 lakhs won

Analysis by Party and by State

Figure 1 shows the percentages of MPs from each party facing criminal charges.
 Figure 1.  Percentages of Party MPs Facing Criminal Charges (Lok Sabha 2009)

The data labels on the bars show how many MPs each party has.  The top two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, have 21% and 38% of their MPs facing criminal charges.  Of all parties with 3 or more MPs, the Shiv Sena has the largest percentage of MPs facing criminal charges (82%), followed closely by the RJD (75%) and JD (S) (67%).

Figure 2 shows the corresponding percentages by state.  Jharkhand leads the pack at 57%, followed closely by Maharashtra at 54%, Bihar at 45%, Gujarat at 42%, and UP at 39%.  The picture changes somewhat when only serious criminal charges are being considered, as can be seen in Figure 3.

When considering only serious criminal charges, UP leads the pack with 28%, followed very closely by Gujarat at 27%, Maharashtra at 21%, Karnataka at 18%, AP at 17%, TN and Bihar at 15%, and Jharkhand at 14%.

For those interested, the ADR report also gives a list of the top 35 MPs with the most criminal cases against them.

Figure 2. Percentages of State MPs Facing Criminal Charges (Lok Sabha 2009)

Figure 3.  Percentages of State MPs Facing Serious Criminal Charges (LS 2009)

Still a Nation of Kings and Queens

The second part of the ADR Report deals with the effect of money on politics, and the facts are frankly damning.  The reader can probably already gauge that from the summary in the section titled “High-Level Trends,” but a look at a detailed analysis is even more stunning.

Figure 4 shows the percentage of MPs from each party who are crorepatis.  For an American, a crore might not be a huge number, but in India a crorepati is a very rich man based on what he can buy with that money (think of a millionaire in the US.)
Figure 4.  Percentage of Party MPs Who are Crorepatis

It is amazing to see that of the MPs from the ruling party, the Indian National Congress, nearly 71% are crorepatis, clearly highlighting the influence of money on politics.  More than half of the MPs from the second largest party in the Lok Sabha, the BJP, are crorepatis. 

With the notable and glaring exception of the CPM, which frankly tends to bolster their claim to be a clean party as far as corruption goes, every other party has more than 35% of their MPs in the category of crorepatis.  The exception of the CPM is highly notable when one considers that, before their historic defeat earlier this year, the CPM had ruled in West Bengal for more than 30 years, certainly plenty of time for their politicians to build up huge fortunes if they were corrupt.  For a long time, the CPM was also in power in Kerala.  Many Indian politicians have amassed huge fortunes in a much shorter span of time in power. (See, for example,

Among all parties with a significant presence (at least 5 MPs) in the Lok Sabha, the Shiv Sena is the wealthiest group of representatives in percentage terms – almost 82% of their MPs are crorepatis.  The Shiv Sena is closely followed by the RLD, which has 80% of its MPs in the crorepati category, and the NCP (Sharad Pawar’s party), which has 78% of its MPs in the elite category.  The DMK is not far behind at 72%. 

The two dominant parties in the most populous state in India, Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, both have more than 60% of their MPs in the super-rich category, while the National Conference in J&K is also very well-off, with 2 out of 3 MPs being crorepatis.  

Seven parties – the Shiromani Akali Dal, Deve Gowda’s JD (S), the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Vaiko’s MDMK in Tamil Nadu, the Sikkim Democratic Front, the Haryana Janhit Congress of Bhajan Lal, and the Assam United Democratic Front – are represented exclusively by crorepatis.

Figure 5 shows the percentage of MPs from each state who are crorepatis.

Figure 5.  Percentage of State MPs who are Crorepatis

Kerala, West Bengal, and Chhatisgarh have the lowest percentages of crorepati MPs, with 25, 26, and 27% respectively.  The first two figures match with the low crorepati numbers of the CPM party, which administered WB exclusively for more than 30 years and was the ruling party in Kerala before the last elections.  Orissa comes a close fourth, with only 29% of crorepatis.

At the other extreme, 8 states/union territories are represented exclusively by crorepatis: Punjab, the National Capital Region of Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chandigarh, Puducherry, Daman and Diu, and Lakshadweep.

Not trailing far behind are Haryana, with 90%, Karnataka, with 89%, Uttarakhand, with 80%, Maharashtra with 79%, Andhra Pradesh with 76%, and Himachal Pradesh with 75%.  The other states with 50% or more crorepatis in their state MP list are Uttar Pradesh with 65%, Tamil Nadu with 64%, Rajasthan with 56%, Madhya Pradesh with 52%, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, and Meghalaya, each with 50% of their MPs being crorepatis.  Only 8 of the 29 regions in Figure 5 have a minority of crorepatis in their MP list.  Clearly, this is a game for rich people to play.

Figure 6 shows the tendency of the Indian legislature to be dominated by the super-rich by showing the average asset value of the MPs from each party.

Figure 6.  Average Assets of Party MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha (2009)

Six parties dominate this skyline: the Assam United Democratic Front, having MPs with an average asset value of Rs. 30.4 crores, the Telugu Desam Party, with MPs worth, on average, Rs. 30 crores, the Nationalist Congress Party and Janata Dal (S), both with per capita MP asset values in excess of Rs. 18 crores, the Shiromani Akali Dal, whose members are worth on average Rs. 16.7 crores, and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, whose MPs are worth, on average, Rs. 14.7 crores.

The ruling national party, the Indian National Congress, follows immediately with a per-MP average asset value of Rs. 7.15 crores.  Given that the INC is the largest party in the Lok Sabha, with 206 out of 543 members, this is very significant indeed.  Their main rival, the BJP, with 116 MPs, has a per-capita MP asset value of Rs. 3.46 crores.  Among the other major parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal, each have per-capita MP asset values in the vicinity of Rs. 5 crores.

Of all the major parties, it is again the communist parties that come out as the least wealthy.  The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India rank near the bottom of the list, with per-MP asset values of only Rs. 38.5 lakhs and Rs. 26.2 lakhs respectively.

Figure 7 shows the distribution of the average asset value of MPs of the 15th Lok Sabha, sorted by state.

Figure 7.  Average Asset Value of State MPs in 15th Lok Sabha

Haryana, with its agricultural landlords, dominates the skyline, with MPs worth, on average, Rs. 18 crores, followed by Andhra Pradesh with Rs. 16 crores.  Meghalaya and Punjab follow, with Rs. 13 crores and Rs. 11 crores respectively.  Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and NCR follow closely with per-MP values of Rs. 8.34, Rs. 8.07, Rs. 7.36, and Rs. 7.15 crores respectively.  Uttar Pradesh, with the most seats in the house, has a per-MP value of Rs. 4.89 crores.  Of the 10 states with the most representation in the Lok Sabha, only West Bengal has a per-MP asset value of less than 1 crore.

The ADR report, for those interested, also lists the top 35 crorepatis in the 2009 Lok Sabha.

Education Levels

I started this article talking about Om Puri’s comment of all parliamentarians as “anpadh” and “ganwar,” so it is just appropriate that I conclude with a discussion on the educational levels of our MPs.  The ADR document also lists the educational levels of our MPs. Figure 8 shows this in graphical form.

Figure 8.  Education Levels of MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha (2009)

One thing is clear from this plot.  Our MPs, at least if the information furnished by them voluntarily in their affidavits is correct, are not “anpadhs” (illiterates).  Almost 50% of the members have a Bachelor’s degree education, either in the arts/sciences or in engineering/medicine, an additional 24% have a post-graduate degree, and nearly 4% have a doctorate degree (Ph.D.)  In addition, 10% have a 12th standard education (equivalent of high school in the US) and another 8% have a 10th standard education, which I would term as a minimal level of education to understand issues.  Add all that up, and you see that 94% of our MPs are fairly literate. 

So Om Puri is wrong at least on the “anpadh” part.  Our MPs are literate, and quite so; some of them are incredibly intelligent and accomplished; they even have 21 PhDs in their midst.  As for “ganwar,” Mr. Puri clarified what he meant by that – not that it means someone who hails from a “gaon” (village), but one who does not make smart decisions – and no amount of education can really make you smart in that sense.  As they say, common sense is very uncommon, but determining this is rather subjective, so we can reserve judgment on that point.

As for his “lootere” remark, well, go back and re-read the statistics about the number of MPs facing criminal charges, and decide for yourself if he was right or wrong.  It is true that the honourable MPs have not been convicted of those charges, but is it a horribly unjust thing for a person to think that these people might be guilty?  When you think of daily life, you will probably agree with me that if one of your neighbours is taken to court and if charges are pressed against him for some serious crime, you tend to believe the person was probably guilty – even though the law may not have pronounced them guilty yet.  Many would right away say they wouldn’t want anything to do with that person any longer.  Whether Puri had the right to call MPs  “lootere” is something I will not opine on here – that is something each person must decide himself or herself after looking at the evidence.

Discussion and Conclusions

Analysis of the excellent data collected by ADR clearly reveals some patterns:

1.      Crime Statistics. Roughly 30% of all Indian MPs of the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them.  About 14% have serious criminal charges pending against them.  The number of members facing criminal charges has also increased dramatically since the last Lok Sabha.  This is a very serious matter.
a.     Innocent Until Proven Guilty?  One can make the point (and, indeed, the Constitution has considered this) that one is innocent until proven guilty.  However, the common wisdom also has it that where there is smoke, there must be fire.  The thought that nearly a third of the people who rule over us and make decisions concerning our future might be compromised in some way or another cannot be ignored, and weighs heavily on the Indian public.  Whether or not a court has deemed these MPs guilty, the court of public opinion holds them so.  The general opinion of the man on the street is that these people are probably guilty and have escaped punishment only by using their inordinate wealth and influence to stay out of prison.
b.     Fast-Track Process to Clear Cases.  The only remedy for this (and it must be implemented soon) is to have a fast-track court process all cases related to sitting MPs.  The solution that some have advocated of not allowing a person with a criminal charge against him to run for office is misguided, because a perfectly good and honest person could be disqualified from running for office by a malicious false case laid against him or her just before an election.  Instead, a rule should be passed that within 3 months of the election of any MP or MLA, a fast-track court should come to a verdict on whether the accused is guilty or not.  An extra 3 months should be given to fast-track the case in higher courts in case any appeals are made – right up to the Supreme Court.

2.     Inordinate Wealth of MPs.  The monetary worth of the members of the Lok Sabha shows that this is primarily a rich man’s playing field.
a.    What is the Source?  Members of Parliament worth crores of rupees are an obvious invitation to a disproportionate assets investigation, and it is a matter of great surprise that all these crorepati MPs have not been investigated by the CBI or other investigative agencies.  To be sure,  some of them are high-paid professional lawyers, and it is conceivable that they made this kind of money arguing cases for wealthy clients, but we already know that the percentage of MPs with professional degrees (under which a law degree would fall) constitute only about 25%.  Given that only a fraction of those MPs will actually be lawyers, and also that the said lawyer MPs are presumably busy with the people’s work and not arguing cases, what explains the fact that 58% of all MPs in the current Lok Sabha are crorepatis?  It is known that the actual salary of an MP is not very high (see, e.g.,, according to which the actual “salary” component paid to an Indian MP will not exceed Rs. 20 lakh a year, even with the revised guidelines).  In the past they were even more poorly paid (  How, then, did they accumulate so much wealth?

b.     Do They Represent Us?  The fact that 58% of the current Lok Sabha members are crorepatis is a matter of great concern because, by virtue of being crorepatis, they no longer represent the average Indian.  To take an analogy, a constituency of Dalits will never be happy with an upper-caste Hindu being their representative; a constituency of Muslims will never be happy with a Hindu (or vice versa) being their representative; a constituency of Tamils will never be happy with, say, a Bihari being their representative; in the same way, poor and middle-class Indians cannot and should not accept ultra-rich MPs as their representative.  Why?  For the same reason that the Dalits cannot accept the upper-caste Hindu as their representative.  How will the representative understand the concerns of his constituency if he does not experience any of the problems that his constituency faces?  Why should an MP who is worth Rs. 10 crores care whether the price of petrol is Rs. 50 or Rs. 200 per litre?  What difference will it make to him?

c.      Politics as an Avenue to Affluence.  What makes this problem worse is that politics is seen as an avenue to get to the ultra-rich level.  So even if the MP is a good representative of his district when he enters, by multiplying his assets at an annual rate of 60%, he quickly stops identifying with them.  As Pavan Varma, in his book, “Being Indian,” brilliantly points out (see, democracy in India has worked not because of any fundamental belief among Indians in the value of freedom and participative politics, but because the Indian democratic system has been rightly seen to be the fastest way of acquiring power and pelf.
d.     Regulatory Mechanisms.  We need to combat this, and to do this we need effective ways to fight corruption and improve transparency in government.  The Jan Lokpal bill (or at least, an equivalent mechanism that doesn’t have large loopholes) is a good mechanism to try to enforce transparency and eliminate corruption.  Government should be seen as serving the people, not as a way of enriching oneself.

3.     The Need for Electoral Reform.  The clear statistics that electoral success is influenced very strongly by personal wealth means that electoral reform is more critical than ever before (what Americans call campaign finance reform).  The reason that elections cost huge amounts of money is that large numbers of votes are simply bought by parties by paying off illiterate villagers and poor people, who live on such limited means that their vote is not as valuable to them as a few hundred rupees.  There need to be strict limits on election spending which need to be carefully monitored so that elections are earned and not bought.

4.     Distribution of Criminal Conduct and Wealth Inequity.  No political party seems to have a monopoly on crime and wealth.  The Congress and BJP, the two major national parties, both have alarming statistics on crime (about 21% of Congress MPs facing criminal charges, about 38% of BJP MPs facing criminal charges) and wealth accumulation due to power (50% of BJP MPs being crorepatis and 70% of Congress MPs being crorepatis).  So, before someone like Mr. Advani goes around the country talking about a Rath Yatra to remove corruption, he needs to take a look at the statistics on his own party.  He will then not need the yatra, which is sort of like the cat chasing its own tail.  There are only two other consistent things one can say from the data.  One, the Shiv Sena has the dubious distinction of having both the highest percentage of its MPs facing criminal charges (82%) as well as the highest percentage of crorepati MPs (again, 82%).  Two, the communist party MPs seem to have accumulated the least wealth from their tenure in power.

Much needs to be done, and Indians need to rise as one in demanding change and doing whatever is necessary to achieve that change.  The agitation of Anna Hazare, whatever one thinks about its means, the actors involved, and the demands, is still a positive step.  Never have the common people risen like this before to demand change.  We need to build upon this positive step to achieve a truly functional democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Finally, as a parting remark, I encourage more people to look at the different reports and statistics available at the ADR site and educate themselves on the reality of our parliamentary democracy.


I would like to thank the folks at ADR for helping me in this continuing work by sharing their raw data with me and for their help in understanding their methods.

Appendix: Indian Penal Code (IPC) Definition of Serious Crimes

Waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India
Conspiracy to commit offences punishable by section 121
Collecting arms, etc., with intention of waging war against the Government of India
Concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war
Assaulting President, Governor, etc., with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power
Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
Undue influence at elections
Personation at elections
Punishment for bribery
Punishment for  undue influence or personation at an election
False statement in connection with an election
Illegal payments in connection with an election
Failure to keep election accounts
Absconding to avoid service of summons or other proceeding
Furnishing false information
False statement on oath or affirmation to public servant or person authorized to administer an oath or affirmation
Giving false evidence
Fabricating false evidence
 false evidence
Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence
Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of offence punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment
Using evidence known to be false
Issuing or signing false certificate
Using as true a certificate known to be false
Coin defined
Counterfeiting coin
Counterfeiting Indian coin
Making or selling instrument for counterfeiting coin
Making or selling instrument for counterfeiting Indian coin
Possession of instrument, or material for the purpose of using the same for counterfeiting coin
Abetting in India the counterfeiting out of India of coin
Import or export of counterfeit coin
Import or export of counterfeits of the India coin
Delivery of coin, possessed with knowledge that it is counterfeit
Delivery of Indian coin, possessed with knowledge that it is counterfeit
Delivery of coin as genuine, which, when first possessed, the deliverer did not know to be counterfeit
Possession of counterfeit coin by person who knew it to be counterfeit when he became possess thereof
Possession of Indian coin by person who knew it to be counterfeit when he became possessed thereof
Person employed in mint causing coin to be of different weight or composition from that fixed by law
Unlawfully taking coining instrument from mint
Fraudulently or dishonestly diminishing weight or altering composition of coin
Fraudulently or dishonestly diminishing weight or altering composition of Indian coin
Altering appearance of coin with intent that it shall pass as coin of different description
Altering appearance of India coin with intent that it shall pass as coin of different description
Delivery of coin, possessed with knowledge that it is altered
Delivery of Indian coin, possessed with knowledge that it is altered
Possession of coin by person who knew it to be altered when he became possessed thereof
Possession of Indian coin by person who knew it to be altered when he became possessed thereof
Delivery of coin as genuine, which, when first possess, the deliverer did not know to be altered
Counterfeiting Government stamp
Having possession of instrument or material for counterfeiting Government stamp
Making or selling instrument for counterfeiting Government stamp
Sale of counterfeit Government stamp
Having possession of counterfeit Government stamp
Using as genuine a Government stamp known to be a counterfeit
Adulteration of drugs
Sale of adulterated drugs
Sale, etc., or obscene books, etc.
Printing etc. of grossly indecent or scurrilous matter or matter intended for blackmail
Sale, etc., of obscene objects to young person
Obscene acts and songs
Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class
Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
Culpable homicide
Culpable homicide by causing death of person other than person whose death was intended
 murder by life-convict
 culpable homicide not amounting to murder
Causing death by negligence
Dowery death
Abetment of suicide of child or insane person
Abetment of suicide
Attempt to murder
Attempt to commit culpable homicide
Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means
 voluntarily causing grievous hurt
Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means
Wrongful confinement for three or more days
Wrongful confinement for ten or more days
Kidnapping from India
Kidnapping from lawful guardianship
Kidnapping or maiming a minor for purposes of begging
Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder
Kidnapping for ransom, etc.
Kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person
Kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, etc.
Procreation of minor girl
Importation of girl from foreign country
Kidnapping or abducting in order to subject person to grievous hurt, slavery, etc.
Wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement, kidnapped or abducted person
Kidnapping or abducting child under ten years with intent to steal from its person
Buying or disposing of any person as slave
Habitual dealing in slave
Selling minor for purposes of prostitution, etc.
Buying minor for purposes of prostitution, etc.
Unlawful compulsory labour
Theft in dwelling house, etc.
Theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master
Theft after preparation made for causing death, hurt or restraint in order to the committing of the theft
Attempt to commit robbery
Dacoity with murder
Dishonestly receiving stolen property
Dishonestly receiving property stolen in the commission of a dacoity
Habitually dealing in stolen property
Assisting in concealment of stolen property
Cheating by personation
Cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect
 cheating by personation
Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property
Dishonest or fraudulent removal or concealment of property to prevent distribution among creditors
Forgery of record of court or of public register, etc.
Forgery of valuable security, will, etc.
Forgery for purpose of cheating
Forgery for purpose of harming reputation
Forged document or electronic record
Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record