Of the 52 MLAs in the top100 list, Karnataka has the highest with 34, followed by AP with 10, Tamil Nadu with five and Telangana with three. At first glance, the data suggests an increase in the number of High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs) in the South who are entering politics, but there are several reasons.
The authors say the main reason is booming property prices in major cities and state capitals in southern India. “In addition to this, transparency in the declaration of assets also plays a role. Most southern MLAs have diversified investments that are largely legal,” said an ADR staffer.
Jaskirat Singhcoordinator of the northern area, ADR, said it is a “remarkable fact” that most MLAs in southern states, unlike those in the north, have more “white money” than is declared in their affidavits.
“While it is hard to say exactly why southern states have more billionaire MLAs than northern lawmakers, many southern Indian lawmakers are automatically wealthier than their northern counterparts due to their diversified investments in real estate and mining, which has more white money,” Singh said.
rakesh reddy dubbuduState ADR coordinator in Telangana, said most of the southern state lawmakers who are billionaires have invested heavily in real estate and booming land prices in and around cities have inflated their investment portfolio.
This is confirmed by the fact that the three richest MLAs, who are all from Karnataka, have combined investments of Rs 2,198 crore in immovable assets or real estate. The three together have declared assets worth Rs 3,836 crore.
Sources say Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, eight times MLA and the richest, had bought land at Rs 2,000-3,000 per square foot in Bangalore 20-25 years ago. This has now been revalued to a staggering Rs 35,000 per square foot.
Another reason for the north-south anomaly, state ADR coordinators say, is that southern states have had a more recent election.
“We expect MLAs from the northern states to show around 50-60% appreciation in the value of their assets compared to prior data when they go to the polls. There is a definite five-year lag in the election cycle that may show that southern state legislators have higher asset value than northern states,” Singh said.