Of the 338 candidates contesting the upcoming Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, 158 are multimillionaires, according to an analysis of election affidavits by Himachal Pradesh Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms.

Among the major parties, the average asset of the 68 Congress candidates was the highest at Rs8.56 crore. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s 68 candidates claimed average assets of Rs5.31 crore, while the Bahujan Samaj Party’s 42 candidates had average assets that were of Rs46.78 lakh.

One reason for the Congress’ higher declaration of wealth could be that it was the party in power for the last five years—the assets of the sitting MLAs across party lines who are recontesting went up by 80%, according to ADR.

Rohit Thakur of the Congress (Jubbal constituency) and Balvir Singh Verma of the BJP (Chopal constituency) recorded asset increases of 487% and 120%, respectively, between 2012 and 2017.

Of the 338 candidates, 71 did not disclose their sources of income in their affidavit and 101 have not declared their income tax details.

On the issue of the nexus between crime and politics, the ADR report revealed that 61 candidates (18%) have declared pending criminal cases against them. Of these, 31 candidates face serious charges. Between the two national parties, 6 Congress candidates and 23 BJP candidates have pending charges. ADR has declared two constituencies, Dalhousie and Mandi, as ‘red alert constituencies’ due to the large number of candidates with declared criminal cases against them.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court sought to know the rate of conviction of politicians in criminal cases. The court also asked whether its direction to finish trial against lawmakers within a year was being followed.

More than half of the candidates are in the 50 and above age bracket, with one over 80 years. A majority of the candidates (63%) are also graduates. Only 19 (6%) of the 338 are women candidates.

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