About half of the legislators who have won in the recently concluded Assembly elections in West Bengal and will be sworn in as legislators have criminal cases against them, showing a steep jump compared to the last Assembly elections in 2016. Besides, the average income of the legislators in the soon-to-be formed Bengal assembly stands at a whopping Rs 2.5 crores, according to a report released by the West Bengal Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reforms, a non-profit body.
Though the electoral verdict has thwarted the advent of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state but it has not stopped criminalisation of politics. In fact, the number of MLAs with criminal cases are higher now than the preceding years. This number of tainted and rich lawmakers in the Assembly has been rising since the defeat of the Left Front in 2011.
Interestingly, this changing characteristic of the new Assembly will also have a bearing on the laws that are going to be promulgated by it. In the upcoming Assembly, with zero Left presence, will have a new dimension altogether.
In 2021, with a third straight term for the TMC under Banerjee’s leadership, the number of MLAs with criminal cases has swollen to 142 out of 292. Among these MLAs, as many as 91 are from the TMC, 55 from the BJP, and one independent winner.
According to the report of West Bengal Election Watch, before 2011, there were only 30 MLAs against whom there were criminal proceedings. In 2011, when Mamata Banerjee first became the Chief Minister, ending a 34-year-long Left rule, the number
of such MLAs reached to 102 out of 294. Among those with cases, 69 were from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and seven from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In 2016, the number of elected lawmakers with criminal cases had increased to 107.
Furthermore, 113 MLAs in the newly elected Assembly, constituting 39% of total number of lawmakers, have been accused of serious crimes such as murder, attempt to murder, rape, corruption and so on. Among these, 30 winning candidates have declared cases of attempt to murder while 20 of them have declared cases related to crimes against women.
The report shows that 73 (34%) out of 213 winning lawmakers from AITC and 39 (51%) out of 77 winners from BJP have such serious criminal cases against them. The data for the analysis was collected from the candidate affidavits submitted to the Election Commission of India.
In terms of wealth, this Assembly is also seeing unprecedented riches as the number of crorepati MLAs has reached an all time high to 158 (54%). At present, 62% of TMC’s winnning candidates and 33% of BJP’s winning candidates are crorepatis.
Back in 2006, there were only seven MLAs with income more than Rs 1 crore; Out of seven crorepati MLAs, two were from CPI(M), three from Congress, one from TMC and one from WBSP.
When Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011, the Assembly suddenly had 47 crorepati MLAs, out of which 37 were from the TMC. One of them was from Forward Block and One from the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), and none from the CPI(M). In 2016, the number of crorepati MLAs further rose to 100 and in 2021, the number has spiked to 158.
As many as 37 of those who have been elected this time have total property of more than Rs 5 crores, according to their self-declaration.
Moreover, the top three MLAs with highest assets belong to the TMC. Ahmed Javed Khan, the TMC MLA from Kasba, tops the list with assets over Rs 32 crores.
The growth of the Kasba MLA's asset was around 598% in 2016, according to the ADR report. In 2011, Khan’s total assets were valued at Rs 2.16 crore, which rose to Rs 17.29 crore in 2016. In 2021, his assets rose by nearly 90%. He also has several criminal cases against him including those for cheating and forgery.
TMC’s Firhaad Hakim, a key member of the CM’s cabinet, has got properties worth Rs 13 crores, which means an increase of 123% in the last five years . The income of a TMC MLA Rukbanor Rahman (elder brother of Rizwanor Rahman, who had committed suicide after marrying a girl from a rich family) has increased 1152% in the last five years, moving up from Rs 2 lakhs to Rs 34 lakhs. Another TMC MLA elected from Sagardighi of Murshidabad, Subrata Saha has got property worth Rs 8 crores--an increase of 387 %. On average the new BJP MLA’s got Rs 1.13 crores as their average property while the average property of 213 winning candidates of the TMC stands at nearly Rs 3 crore.