New Delhi: The upper house or the Rajya Sabha (RS) members of Parliament are often called 'unelected'. Many a time allegations are levelled against political parties that such seats are "sold". Now the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a National Election Watchdog has reviewed financial interests of 213 sitting Rajya Sabha members to sense why they are so sought after.
The ADR report has found 89 (41.8 per cent) MPs have declared that they have a financial interest that falls under either of these categories: Remunerative directorship, Regular remunerated activity, Shareholding of controlling nature, Paid consultancy or Professional engagement.
But the report has found 124 (58.2 per cent) MPs have not provided any detail about financial interest under any of these five categories.
Twenty four MPs (11.3 per cent) have declared that they have some financial interest in the form of Remunerative Directorship of a company.
The highest amount received for Remunerative Directorship has been declared by D. Kupendra Reddy (JD(S) Karnataka) with a value of Rs 40.68 crore per annum followed by BJP's Rajeev Chandrasekhar with a value of Rs 7.03 crore and Abdul Wahab (IUML Kerala) with Rs 3.34 crore.
Thirty MPs (14.1 per cent) have declared that they have a financial interest in the form of Regular Remunerated Activity. The highest amount received from regular remunerated activity has been declared by BJP's Mahesh Poddar (Jharkhand) at Rs 3.18 crore per annum, followed by Mary Kom who is BJP Nominated, with Rs 2.50 crore per annum and Swapan Dasgupta (Nominated) with Rs 66.60 lakh as annual income from regular remunerated activity.
Meanwhile, 44 (20.7 per cent) MPs have declared that they have financial interest in the form of shareholding of controlling nature. The highest amount of shareholdings of a controlling nature in companies have been declared by BJP's Ravindra Kishore Sinha from Bihar, with a value of Rs 747 crore followed by Congress's Abhishek Manu Singhvi with a value of Rs 386 crore and Independent MP Kakde Sanjay Dattatraya with a value of Rs 262 crore.
But only a mere 2 MPs which constitutes 0.9 per cent have declared that they have financial interest in the form of Paid consultancy. The highest value of benefits derived for all paid consultancy has been declared by Senior Advocate K. T. S. Tulsi with Rs 27.50 lakhs, followed by Vikas Haribhau Mahatme with 5.60 lakhs. While Tulsi is a nominated MP, Mahatme is from BJP.
As much as 40 (18.8 per cent) Rajya Sabha members have declared that they have financial interest in the form of professional engagement. The top 3 in this category are all lawyers. The highest amount received has been declared by Congress's Abhishek Manu Singhvi with total fees received from professional engagements at Rs 177 crore, followed by P. Chidambaram and Tulsi.
Interestingly, there's as many as 104 MPs in the upper house with total assets worth more than Rs 1 crore, yet they have no financial interests, claims their declarations.
The top four are T. Subbarami Reddy of Congress with Rs 422.44 crore of total assets followed by TDP's C.M. Ramesh with 258.20 crore. Then comes former Finance Minister late Arun Jaitley with Rs 111.42 crore and Ambika Soni with Rs 105.82 crore of total assets.
But under each category, a significant number of MPs haven't even declared their assets. What's even more shocking is that, there are 17 members of Rajya Sabha who have not at all submitted the declaration of their pecuniary interest, under any category, whatsoever.
The names include Misha Bharti of RJD, Dola Sen of Trinamool Congress, Mahendra Prasad of JDU, Rajmani Patel of Congress and Rakesh Sinha of the BJP among others. What's troubling is that leaders from cutting across party lines have defied.
Speaking to IANS, Maj. Gen. Anil Verma (Retd), who heads the ADR, expressed concern at this culture of hiding truth.
"Of course it is a matter of concern as far as transparency goes. We are trying to convince the current Speaker why it is so important for him to intervene. We urged the previous Speaker as well but to no avail", said Gen Verma.