Out of the 38 Members of Parliament who declared farming as their profession in the Seventeenth Lok Sabha, 26 belong to the Bharatiya Janta Party. Data also show that only 7% of the MPs in the current Lok Sabha have identified farming as their profession, which is much lower than the previous two terms of the Lok Sabha between 2009 to 2019.
In a recent Rajya Sabha proceeding, following the passage of the contentious Farm Bills 2020, Union Defence minister Rajnath Singh said, "I am also a farmer. I can't believe in my life that the government would do something which will harm the farmers."
Similarly, on the day the Farm Bills 2020 were passed, in a Lok Sabha proceeding Virendra Singh, an MP from Uttar Pradesh's Ballia constituency claimed that being a farmer he understood that the current government has taken several beneficial steps for farmers like the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.
In the current Lok Sabha, out of the 38 farmers identifying themselves as farmers, 26 belong to BJP, 4 MPs are from the INC, 4 from Shiv Sena, 2 of the MPs are from JD(U), 1 from YSR (Congress Party) and 1 from DMK.
There is little clarity as to how MPs declare themselves as farmers in the election affidavit. "One can obviously show that he/she is engaged in dual or multiple professions. No semblance of cross verification takes place while the affidavits are submitted to the Election Commission", highlights Prof. Trilochan Sastry, a Co-ordinator at the Association for Democratic Reforms.
Prof. Sastry further pointed out that the MPs already get some tax exemptions and subsidies which means if the MPs declare that all their income comes from agricultural activities, then they get more tax exemptions. Secondly, there is no linkage between the Income Tax department and the Election Commission in this regard since they do not work closely with each other. The Income Tax department does ask for documents that can prove them to be farmers but the Election Commission does not verify or scrutinise further if those documents are genuine or forged. Whatever is provided to the Income Tax department by the MPs, the same is produced to the Election Commission, for which the latter has no means of verification, adds Prof. Sastry.
In the 17th Lok Sabha, the number of MPs who have declared themselves as social workers are 181 (33.5%), followed by business which is 108 (20%). 46 (8.5%) MPs have declared themselves as Advocates while 37 (6.8%) of the MPs have claimed that they are political and social workers.
This is in sharp contrast to the 15th Lok Sabha between 2009 to 2014 when 27% of the MPs claimed that they were farmers. Interestingly, in the 16th Lok Sabha between 2014-2019, 27% of the MPs declared agriculture as their primary occupation, which turned out to be the highest among all the categories. This was followed by political and social work at 24% while business stood at 20%.
In the year 2010, Amitabh Bachchan too was declared a 'farmer' from Uttar Pradesh after a legal dispute over the ownership of 2.403 hectares of agricultural land in Kakori, about 20 kms from Lucknow. Maj.Gen Anil Verma (Retd.), National Co-ordinator of Association for Democratic Reforms said that even if agricultural income is tax-free, every person owning large tracts of agricultural land cannot be declared a 'farmer'. He concludes that be it Amitabh Bachchan or any other MPs, it is just an anomaly in the land ownership system. While income generated from their commercial properties are taxable, agriculture income are tax free.