Can switching political parties have an impact on your wealth?

Though a direct correlation between the two cannot be established independently, a recent report by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) says that close to 90 per cent of the MLAs across Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Punjab, who recontested in the 2022 Assembly polls after switching parties saw their wealth grow between 2017 and 2022.

The report has analysed the 2017 and 2022 affidavits of candidates who contested State polls in both terms, but under different parties. Of the 85 who were MLAs in 2017, the wealth of 75 of them grew.

The wealth of 72 per cent of these MLAs grew by over a crore of ruppees in five years. In fact, the wealth of 22 MLAs grew by more than 100 per cent. However, it is not clear if the wealth grew prior to, or after switching parties.

The MLA who saw the maximum growth in his wealth is former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA Shah Alam, who joined the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). His assets grew by over ₹77 crore in five years. After the election, Alam quit AIMIM to rejoin BSP.

Former UP MLA Sahender Singh Ramala, who switched between Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party saw his wealth grow by ₹46.45 lakh. Rae Bareli MLA Aditi Singh, who left the Indian National Congress to join BJP in 2021, had a 22075 per cent growth in her assets.

The report says that of the 85 re-contesting MLAs who switched parties, 81 (95 per cent) have assets worth over ₹1 crore. Interestingly, twelve of them were not crorepatis during the 2017 polls. Of the 2017 MLAs, Letpao Haokip from Manipur, who switched from the Nationalist People’s Party to the BJP, had his assets grow by ₹3.7 crore.

Law point The fifty-second amendment of the Constitution has added the Anti-Defection Act, which prevents an elected representative from leaving a party. However, this is not foolproof, thereby facilitating defections through its loopholes. Recently, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu said the time has come to amend the anti-defection legislation in the country to plug existing loopholes. “There are certain loopholes in the anti-defection law which allows wholesale defection. But retail defection is not allowed. Amendments are required,” he said.

The ADR report says that “The ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’ (a phrase used to refer to politician Gaya Lal, who switched parties thrice in a fortnight) syndrome and the never ending ‘hunger for power and money’ has become a common practice amongst our Parliamentarians and political parties.”

Two years before these polls, former Congress Madhya Pradesh MLA Jyotiraditya Scindia, along with other MLAs had switched to the BJP, causing the downfall of the State’s government. Commenting on this, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said, “He had to save his house and he got scared so he joined the RSS,” hinting that Scindia may have gone behind money and power.

Those who lost

Not everyone is a winner in this game. Some politicians also saw their wealth dwindle, after a switch. For instance, Kh David Maring from Manipur, who switched to Republican Party of India (Athawale) from NPP, has no declared assets this year. In 2017, however, he had assets worth ₹5.6 lakh. The wealth of Samajvadi Party (SP) candidate Divya Gangwar, who switched from BSP, had a decrease of ₹27.9 crore in wealth. Among the recontesting MLAs, the one who lost most money is AAP’s Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who used to be a member of INC. His assets decreased by ₹16.49 crore in five years.