Bhopal, June 11: Madhya Pradesh may be struggling to shed its Bimaru tag but its ministers are rich.
A cursory glance at the assets of the 50-odd ministers in Digvijay Singh’s government, submitted to the Speaker, shows a phenomenal rise in their income chiefly from agriculture, which is tax-free.
It is a different matter that in the public arena, the ministers collectively blame the drought in the last three years for a fall in agricultural produce, power supply and other such hards-hips being faced by the common man.
Most of Madhya Pradesh’s districts are drought hit. There have been reports of starvation and cattle deaths, making the state slip from the fourth to the 13th spot in terms of agricultural productivity.
But, according to the ministers, income from agriculture has helped them buy houses, land, guns and cattle. The properties now earn fat sums as rent.
Guns, pistols and revolvers seem to be their favourite toys.
State agriculture minister Mahendra Singh owns three licensed revolvers, two rifles and one 12-bore gun, apparently to drive away wild animals.
One of the two deputy chief ministers, Subhash Yadav, owns a gun and a revolver in his name as do 23 other ministers, who own the latest assault rifles, pistols and handguns.
Chief minister Digvijay Singh owns a castle, a hill, the premises of a jail, a post office and a court, gardens and acres and acres of land across Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
In terms of cash, the chief minister’s money lies in 12 bank accounts — the highest deposit is Rs 27,59,400 in hometown Raghogarh, and the lowest is Rs 610 at a branch of Punjab National Bank in Khan Market, Delhi.
His wife, too, is rich, owning over 5 kg of gold, most of it as gift from her mother.
Minister for public works Sharvan Patel is the richest with agricultural land, houses, shares, bonds and deposits amounting to Rs 10 crore. To protect himself, Patel, also known as “bidi king” for his bidi manufacturing business, has a 30-bore carbine and a 22-bore pistol.
If the men have a penchant for guns, women ministers have a weakness for gold.
Rani Urmila Singh has 85 tola of gold and 6 kg of silver to declare.
Subhash Yadav’s colleague, deputy chief minister Jamuna Devi, has over a kg of gold ornaments.
Wives of several ministers have also acknowledged having gold averaging at 500 grams per person.
Senior Congress leader Arjun Singh’s son Ajay Singh, a minister in the Digvijay ministry, while submitting his list of immovable properties, has mentioned his Kerwan Dam farmhouse as a co-owned residential property.
But he has given no estimate of its actual worth. In the 1980s, when Arjun Singh was the chief minister, the farmhouse had generated a controversy for its lavish landscape, marble work and high cost.