Shimla: The Congress’ Brij Behari Lal Butail, a leading tea grower in the Kangra Valley, leads the group of 146 rich Assembly poll candidates in Himachal Pradesh who have assets worth Rs 1 crore or more.
Butail, who is contesting from Palampur, has declared the highest assets worth Rs 169 crore, says the NGO National Election Watch.
It says his assets have grown from Rs 91.92 crore in 2007 Assembly polls to Rs 169.21 crore in 2012.
The NGO studied the affidavits of 445 candidates out of 459 in the fray for the 68 Assembly seats in the state that goes to polls November 4.
"This time, a total of 33 percent candidates in the fray are multimillionaires, whereas in 2007 their number was only 16 percent," Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of the NGO, said.
The royal descendants who are contesting the elections include Congress leader Virbhadra Singh, who belongs to former royal family of Bushehr state; Maheshwar Singh (Himachal Lokhit Party) and his younger brother Karan Singh (Congress) - both scions of the erstwhile Kullu ruling family.
While five-time former chief minister Virbhadra Singh is contesting from Shimla (rural), Maheshwar Singh and Karan Singh are contesting from Kullu and Banjar seats, respectively.
Asha Kumari, married in the Chamba royal family, is contesting from Dalhousie as a Congress nominee, while Vijay Jyoti Sen, who belongs to the Keonthal royal family, is contesting as an independent from Kasumpti. Sen is the sister-in-law of Virbhadra Singh`s wife Pratibha Singh.
Anirudh Singh, who is from the erstwhile Koti estate, is contesting as the Congress candidate from Kasumpti.
Among the royals, Virbhadra Singh is the richest with assets worth Rs 33,65,64,971. His rank is fourth in the list of top rich candidates.
The top five re-contesting candidates with highest increase in assets are: Butail, whose assets went up by Rs 77.29 crore, Anil Sharma (Rs 26.59 crore), GS Bali (Rs 21.03 crore), Dharma Veer (Rs 15.83 crore) and Virbhadra Singh (Rs 9.46 crore).
Balbir Singh, an independent from Chopal, has declared the highest liabilities of Rs 11.42 crore, followed by GS Bali (Congress) Rs 9.96 crore, Rajesh Sharma (independent) Rs 3.68 crore, Rakesh Kalia (Congress) Rs 2.92 crore and Rakesh Kumar (independent) Rs 2.30 crore.
Om Parkash of the Himachal Swabhiman Party, who is contesting from Baijnath, has declared the lowest assets of Rs 2,000.
Chhokar said that among the major parties, the average asset per candidate for the Congress was Rs 7.39 crore, whereas it was Rs 1.55 crore in the Bharatiya Janata Party and Rs 1.72 crore for the Communist Party of India-Marxist.