Andhra shining: 314 candidates. 64 crorepaties

POLITICIANS GETTING rich faster than others is no surprise. But in Andhra Pradesh, which often scored over others in counting wealthy politicians, candidates are disclosing mind-boggling assets.

In fact, of the top ten richie riches across the country, seven belong to Andhra. Their assets run into hundreds of crores and some have even seen their wealth grow 20 to 30 times from the last election.

Of the 124 contituencies in the first phase, 21 per cent is from Andhra. And in terms of declared total assets, candidates from the state account for half the wealth.

Among the 314 candidates contesting the first phase of elections for 22 constituencies, 64 are crorepatis - up four times from 2004. At that time, there were only 3 candidates in these constituencies with assets of more than Rs 10 crore; now there are 18.

"There has been an innovative corporate-politician nexus at work. In the last five years, the state's wealth has been pocketed by a few companies and politicians patronising these companies have amassed huge wealth," said C. Ramachandraiah, who is contesting from the Machilipatnam constituency.

Ramachandraiah is representing Praja Rajyam - a newly-found regional party whose top promise is to free the state of corruption. The richest candidate in the first phase is TDP's Nama Nageswara Rao - he has Rs 173 crore in assets, including that of his spouse, and is contesting from Khammam.

He will face-off with Congress's Renuka Chowdhury on April 16. The richest candidate in the state is Lagadapati Rajagopal, sitting MP from Vijayawada, with Rs 299 crore in assets, but he goes to polls in the second phase on April 23.

Rao's assets have increased 26 times since 2004, while Rajagopal's have seen a 30-fold rise. Huge income disparities have been the bane of Andhra Pradesh, a state that has grown faster than many other Indian states over the past decade, but has also been infamous for recurrent news of starvation and farmers' suicides.

"There is clear indication that development has been uneven, leading to disproportionate wealth accumulation and rise in extremism," said Sri P. Chengal Reddy, chairman of Federation of Farmers Association. That is why Naxals have gone from strength to strength in the impoverished Telengana region, where disparities are more visible than the prosperous coastal tract.

In Telengana and other northeastern parts of the state, only those belonging to the land mafias or the rich tribal landed class get into politics. Kishore Chand Deo, who won from Parvathipuram last time and is contesting from Araku this time on a Congress ticket is known as an adivasi raja.

Many in the state are also contractor-turned-politicians. They usually influence the development projects and where these come up.

Having land around them helps escalate their assets. Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy, who won the last Lok Sabha election from the Narasaraopet constituency on a Congress ticket, is now a candidate from Nellore.

He is a well-known contractor. As is R. Sambasiva Rao, the Congress candidate from Guntur, and who won from Elluru last time.

"Businessmen have a direct incentive to become politicians as control over the police and executive is important," said Reddy of the farmers' federation.


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