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Members of Congress are 27 times wealthier than the average urban household

The 2024 general election could significantly change the composition of the Lok Sabha in terms of party strength, leading to the formation of a coalition government. Yet even in the 2019 elections, the candidates who performed well in most parties were inevitably wealthy, with assets equivalent to those of the country’s richest 10% of urban households.

The median assets of the winning candidates in the 2024 elections were Rs 74 crore, with nearly 92 per cent of the winners having assets of Rs 1 crore or above, while 75 per cent of them had assets of Rs 3 crore or above. The median assets of the 2024 runner-up candidates are Rs 625 crore, with nearly 88 per cent owning assets worth Rs 1 crore or more and 68 per cent owning assets worth Rs 3 crore or more.

The numbers for 2019 were similar. Ten thousand rupees or more.

The median assets of candidates who finished second in the 2019 elections were Rs 54 crore, with nearly 85 per cent owning assets worth Rs 1 crore or more and 63 per cent owning assets worth Rs 3 crore or more (figure 1).

Figure 1 | This chart shows the median assets of the winners and runners-up in 2019 and 2024.

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The assets of the winner or runner-up candidate are worth over Rs 1 crore, probably because political parties field only wealthy candidates. In 2024, the median assets of the top 27 party candidates will be at least Rs 1 crore. For the two major national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, the value is Rs 76 crore and Rs 54 crore respectively (figure 2).

Figure 2 | This chart shows the median assets of major party candidates in 2024.

We use “median” to filter outliers; if we use “mean”, outliers—the wealth of extremely wealthy candidates—will skew the calculation. For example, Union Minister Chandra Sekhar Pemmasani of the Telugu Desam Party declared assets worth Rs 5,706 crore. If the average asset value of the winners in 2024 (as opposed to the median asset value) is taken into account, the number jumps to Rs 46 crore, while the median asset value is Rs 74 crore.

In terms of wealth, the candidates come from the elite segment of Indian society, which can be confirmed by comparing their assets with those of Indian families.

Significant difference

The All India Debt and Investment Survey 2019 estimated the average asset value of urban households at Rs 2.71 crore and the corresponding figure for rural households at Rs 1.59 crore. These are “average” numbers, which means they may be calculated high due to abundant outliers. Even so, the median assets of the winning candidate in 2024 are still 27 times the average assets of urban households, and the median assets of the runner-up candidates are 23.1 times the average assets of urban households.

The average wealth of the richest 10% households in urban areas is Rs 1.5 lakh. This number (described in image 3) shows that in terms of wealth, only those from the elite can participate meaningfully in Indian elections, largely reflecting the costs of campaigning and financing.

Figure 3 | This chart shows the average household assets in different decile categories in rural and urban areas in 2019 (in $ 1000 seconds).

However, there are exceptions: Jyotirmay Singh Mahato (BJP) who won from Purulia in West Bengal has assets worth Rs 5.95 lakh, Mitali Bagh from Alam Bagh (Trinamool Congress Party) has assets worth Rs 7.80 lakh, and Priya Saroj (Samavardi Party) from Uttar Pradesh Machchilishahar – 11.25 lakh rupee.

In terms of political parties, candidates of Bahujan Samaj Party (Rs 47 lakh), People’s Democratic Party (Rs 87 lakh) and CPI(M) (Rs 1 crore) have the lowest average assets. Among them, only the CPI(M) has a winning candidate (four).

Source: Election Commission of India, Society for Democratic Reforms and All India Debt Investment Survey

Also read: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana host many of India’s richest parliamentary candidates

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