Today News Online Service
New Delhi, March 4
The disreputable bhadralok–chhotolok division in West Bengal was reflected in an analysis of the financial backgrounds of the sitting MLAs of the state.
Two organisations – Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and West Bengal Election Watch – have jointly produced the report covering various aspects of the state’s sitting MLAs.
The list of the 10 wealthiest MLAs, prepared on the basis of asset affidavits filed by candidates with their nominations forms, contained the names of six who fall in the category of what is popularly known as ‘bhadralok’ in Bengal.
Being an upper caste is a pre-requisite for membership of this elite group who have a disproportionately high representation in professions and businesses.
Three of the wealthiest – holding second, third and sixth positions, respectively, on the list – are Muslims. James Kujur, who represents a constituency reserved for Schedules Tribes (ST), is the only Christian on the list of 10 richest MLAs.
Topping the list of wealthiest MLAs is a Brahmin man, Samir Chakraborty, who declared total assets of over Rs 40 crore. There are two more Brahmins on the list. Except for Kujur, who worked in the commercial taxes department and then with the police before he joined politics, none of the other wealthiest MLAs belong to any of the reserved categories. Kujur remained a minister until removal from the post by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
There is not a single woman among the ten wealthiest MLAs.
The wealthiest MLAs are all from the ruling TMC. Given the fact that TMC has an overwhelming presence in the House (206 among 284 MLAs, 10 seats are vacant), it is perhaps not all that surprising that the ten wealthiest MLAs are all from one party.
The chhotolok (lowly people) in Bengal derives directly from the caste system prevalent in the local Hindu society. Sure enough, the list of ten MLAs with the lowest assets contained the names of seven legislators representing various reserved constituencies. While four of the seven belong to STs, the remaining three are belong to SCs.
The poorest MLA, however, is a Muslim. Ibrahim Ali, CPI(M) MLA, has assets worth Rs 49,000 only. TMC has a strong presence in this list too having seven in the list of ten poorest MLAs. Two in the list are from CPI(M) while one is from Congress.
There are two women on the list of the 10 poorest MLAs. Pratima Rajak, Congress MLA from Burwan (SC) seat, declared assets worth Rs four lakhs only. Jyostna Mandi, TMC MLA from Ranibandh (ST) constituency, reported assets worth less than Rs 2 lakhs.