Rediff.com  » News » Meet the 5 richest MPs

Meet the 5 richest MPs

July 09, 2019 09:32 IST

A mix of industrialists and businessmen, who have inherited riches or rose from humble backgrounds and even endured boom and bust cycles, the MPs are illustrative of how the political stock of the wealthy is increasing rapidly.
B Dashrath Reddy and T E Narasimhan report.

IMAGE: Nakul Nath, the Congress MP from Chhindwara and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath's son. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nakul Nath/Facebook

The country's most powerful crorepatis club is in session these days.

It is meeting at the grand 92-year-old circular building that we know as Parliament House.

Peep into the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of India's supreme legislative body, and you'll find that almost 90 per cent of the newly elected members of Parliament are crorepatis.

First-time Congress MP Nakul Nath might be a new entrant to the club, but he is leading it with net assets worth Rs 660 crore (Rs 6.6 billion).

Another Congress MP, H Vasanthakumar, who has won from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, comes a distant second with declared assets worth Rs 412 crore (Rs 4.12 billion).

If you take into account just the five richest Lok Sabha MPs -- Nath, Vasanthakumar and D K Suresh (Congress), Kanumuru Raghu Rama Krishna Raju (YSR Congress) and Jayadev Galla (Telugu Desam Party) -- you'll find that their collective wealth, at Rs 2,042 crore (Rs 20.42 billion), nearly equals the GDP of the Oceanian nation of Palau (going by International Monetary Fund figures for 2018).

It's more than what the government plans to spend to make 200,000 classrooms across India digital and also more than the cost of Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's foreign trips between June 15, 2014, and December 3, 2018, which are pegged at Rs 2,000 crore (rs 20 billion).

And it's nearly five times the money former finance minister Arun Jaitley had allocated to set up five new Indian Institutes of Management and five new Indian Institutes of Technology in the Union Budget 2014-15.

 

A mix of industrialists and businessmen, who have inherited riches or rose from humble backgrounds and even endured boom and bust cycles, the top five are illustrative of how the political stock of the wealthy is increasing rapidly.

According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, the percentage of crorepati MPs in the Lok Sabha has gone up from 58% in 2009 to 82% in 2014 and 88% this year.

Nath, who succeeded his father Kamal Nath in the family bastion of Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, remains a director in 21 companies that are a part of the family's business conglomerate that includes a wide portfolio from real estate to plantation and hospitality.

The other possessions include: Bonds, debentures and shares worth over Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) in companies; agricultural land valued at Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) in Imlikhera village of Chhindwara and a bungalow worth Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) in New Delhi. The Naths also have a bungalow in the suburb of Shikarpur, 7 km from Chhindwara.

Since this is Nath Jr's first time in Parliament, people around him are guarded in their responses to questions about him.

IMAGE: Adoring constituents gather around H Vasanthakumar in Perumalnagar village. Photograph: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com

In Chennai, Vasanthakumar, also a first-time MP and the richest from South India, is more forthcoming.

His three-storey house sits in the busy and narrow Natesan Street in T Nagar where everything from furniture and apparel to vegetables and fruits are sold from morning to late evening.

A large flex board on the boundary wall advertises the well-known consumer electronics retail chain -- Vasanth & Co. From the outside, this looks like just another house in the neighbourhood.

Vasanthakumar, 69, who is usually to be seen in his trademark white shirt, white trousers and black belt, also owns the Vasanth TV channel.

His fleet of vehicles includes a Toyota Corolla, a Porsche, an Audi, a Toyota Fortuner, a Mercedes-Benz and a Land Cruiser, to list a few.

Besides his Natesan Street home, he has two other houses in Chennai, three in Kanyakumari and one in Tirunelveli.

In five years, his income has grown by 45.6% -- from Rs 19.87 crore (Rs 198.7 million) in 2013-14 to Rs 28.93 crore (Rs 289.3 million) for the year ended 2017-2018. He started with Rs 22 in his pocket in 1978.

After receiving a post-graduate degree, he joined V G Panneerdas & Co, which pioneered the concept of selling home appliances on instalments in Tamil Nadu in the 1970s.

Eight years later, Vasanthakumar started his own home appliances and electronics shop in a building rented from a friend.

And at 27, he opened his first showroom with the Rs 22 he borrowed from someone. He, too, adopted the installment model, but with a twist.

He approached big companies and factories and in collaboration with their management offered household appliances and electronics to their employees for a fixed monthly amount that was deducted from their salaries.

Today, his company has more than 80 showrooms and an annual turnover of Rs 1,200 crore to Rs 1,300 crore (Rs 12 billion to Rs 13 billion). The profits are reinvested into the business.

Vasanth TV, started in the late 2000s, sustains itself but does not make a profit.

The man, who only listens to himself when it comes to making business decisions, says he has never made any that he regrets. And he does not like to advise anyone on investments.

With him busy with politics, his youngest son -- he has three children -- is now handling the business.

But he continues to make key decisions, one of these being that he will not list his company: He believes the share market is a space for gambling, not a place to put one's hard-earned money.

And he does not intend to expand to new geographies since he knows little about them.

IMAGE: D K Shivakumar with his brother D K Suresh Kumar, MP. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI Photo

With net assets of Rs 338 crore (Rs 3.38 billion), Doddaalahalli Kempegowda Suresh, better known as D K Suresh, is the only Congress member from Karnataka and the third richest MP.

His elder brother D K Shivakumar is minister of irrigation in Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's cabinet.

Popularly referred to as the 'D K brothers', they come from a modest background from a village in Ramanagara district.

Today they count among Karnataka's power brokers. Suresh's political growth is linked to that of Shivakumar's and the family's fortunes.

While Suresh, 52, introduces himself as a farmer and a businessman, the family has interests in granite and stone mining.

He has shares worth over Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) in 14-odd companies, including Indian Overseas Bank, Andhra Bank, Suvi Granite and Indian Rock Capital.

He owns prime pieces of land, agricultural (valued at over Rs 25 crore/Rs 250 million) and non-agricultural (Rs 248 crore/Rs 2.48 billion), residences valued at Rs 16 crore (Rs 160 million) and seven commercial buildings worth Rs 35 crore (Rs 350 million).

Travelling is one of his interests. Austria, Belgium, Finland, China, Greece, Norway and Switzerland are just some of the places he has visited. Suresh is known to enjoy a good masala dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan, a 75-year-old establishment in Bengaluru.

IMAGE: Kanumuru Raghu Rama Krishna Raju. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kanumuru Raghu Rama Krishna Raju/Facebook

Kanumuru Raghu Rama Krishna Raju, also a first-time MP, looks much younger than 57. That he doesn't identify as a career politician comes as no surprise.

The MP, whose tall and heavyset frame is typical of the Rajus (the Telugu variant of the title of kings) of Bhimavaram in West Godavari district, is ready to hit the gym after a morning walk when we visit his sprawling villa.

Homes here in Gachibowli, in Hyderabad, are valued at Rs 40 crore to Rs 50 crore (Rs 400 million to Rs 500 million).

Raju is a third-generation entrepreneur. His maternal grandfather G S Raju, one of the few crorepatis in Andhra Pradesh then, owned a 1958 vintage Chevrolet Impala and was deputy chairman of the state legislative council.

The family proximity to power and pelf meant it was only a matter of time before Raju took the plunge into politics.

His grandfather had built the family business by floating the pharma company South India Research Institute in the 1960s.

Raju, who has a postgraduate degree in pharmacy from Andhra University, decided to chart his own path after a stint in the family trade for about five years.

In 1991, he started a rice bran oil-extracting unit in the paddy-rich Nalgonda district of Telangana.

A few years later, he launched a 6 Mw biomass-based power generation plant. Eventually he built a power business with plants in the biomass, hydro, gas and coal sectors.

Today his privately held Ind Bharat Group owns projects with a combined installed capacity of 1,400 Mw across states.

His foray into the power sector was the best decision he took, says Raju, although he rues setting up most of the plants in Tamil Nadu that have run into litigation woes.

"I realised any business that relies too much on the government is doomed to fail. That is why my 26-year-old son, who is taking over the group business to free me for constituency work, has been looking to diversify into areas that require little or no government dependence," he smiles.

Raju is passionate about golfing, though he confesses he isn't very skilled, and is an ardent fan of the songs of Telugu film composer Ghantasala, as well as of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar.

He has inherited a love of collecting artworks from his mother Annapurnamma, who has a stock that includes Lladro sculptures and Swarovski crystals at their ancestral home in Aibhimavaram, West Godavari.

He counts New Zealand and Switzerland among his favourite holiday destinations, and owns a Rolls-Royce Phantom -- apart from his first car, a Maruti 800, which still has pride of place in his garage.

An in-house team of 15 to 20 chartered accountants manage his investments and money matters, the details of which he is not willing to share.

IMAGE: Jayadev Galla, who owns Amara Raja Batteries, is the Telugu Desam Party MP from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Jayadev Galla/Facebook

Elected MP for the second consecutive time from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, industrialist-turned-politician Jayadev Galla, 53, is managing director of the Amara Raja group, an industrial and automotive battery maker.

With declared assets of over Rs 305 crore (Rs 3.05 billion), he is the fifth richest MP -- and also a rare one who lost more than half his wealth since he was last elected.

In 2014, he had declared assets worth around Rs 680 crore (Rs 6.80 billion).

His father Ramachandra N Galla, who founded Amara Raja Batteries in the 1980s, says the decline in market capitalisation of his company is the prime reason for this. Company stock comprises a major portion of Galla Jr's assets.

"This does not mean our company is not doing well," Ramachandra clarifies.

"Our sales volumes are growing. Investments on capacity expansion keep happening all the time. It is possible that the profit margins would come down in certain quarters when the economy is doing not so well or because the raw material costs have gone up."

Galla entered politics on returning to India after 22 years in the US. His grandfather Paturi Rajagopala Naidu was the MP from Chittoor twice.

The TDP parliamentarian had among the highest attendance in the 16th Lok Sabha. But that doesn't mean his business is getting neglected.

His company plans to get into the electric vehicles space by producing EV batteries. It currently provides Li-ion batteries to Indian OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) by sourcing the cells from China and Korea and intends to start producing these battery cells on its own.

Galla likes an informal work environment. After taking over, he changed the reception into a front office, the human resources department into an 'employee engineering' one and established an open office environment.

In 2016, he took 60 of his friends and family to Tokyo for his 50th birthday. He is also known to hold board meetings in Europe and elsewhere.

Like Vasanthakumar, the Galla family believes in reinvesting in its core business. "We might invest a bit in mutual funds," says Ramachandra, "but that's about it."

Nikita Puri and Ritwik Sharma contributed to this report.

B Dasarath Reddy and T E Narasimhan
Source:
SHARE THIS STORY