3 Dec update: Sonia Gandhi is now off the Huff Post list. Two were taken off the list, one for not being a “world leader” anymore, since his son took over. But Sonia continues to be a “world leader” and was taken off the list only because her net worth could not be verified!
Huff Post put out this list last week – ranking Sonia Gandhi number 12 on the list of the 20 richest world leaders currently in power. Never mind the fact that Sonia Gandhi is technically not in power. But that is such a joke that these lists will easily pass editorial scrutiny as people know exactly who rules India. According to Huff Post, Sonia Gandhi’s net worth is $2 bn – at least a whopping INR 12, 000 crores.
For perspective, see graph below:
Well, we knew the UPA 2 has been home to unprecedented corruption – but one look at that graph – and you can’t but notice the absurdity of the situation.
The 2004 and 2009 figures are from Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha election nomination affidavits. The 2013 figure is what Huff Post has reported. So, either the previous affidavits are patently false, or Huff Post has got it wrong – but by how much?! Its anyone’s guess what the reality is. Ok there may be an error of magnitude – but even if you drop a ‘zero’, the figure is no less impressive. Even if you drop a couple of ‘zeros’, Sonia Gandhi’s net worth would have increased by over 8000% compared to her 2009 Election Commission affidavit figure.
Ok so Huff Post might have added her family members in – so let us look at what that graph looks like if Rahul Gandhi’s assets are added in
Well, the picture doesn’t change much. What the graph hides though is that Rahul Gandhi’s own net worth grew by over 500% (and their combined figure rose by close to 300%) between the 2004 affidavit and the 2009 affidavit – joining politics and consuming the ‘poison of power’ definitely seems to have paid off. See here –
Still, the jump to over INR 12,000 crores in 2013 is inexplicable. What’s the bet that the 2014 EC affidavit will throw up no surprises in the income/asset declarations of these politicians? This can only point to the invisible hand of that wonderful magician – the “private citizen” Robert Vadra, who turns land into gold in a matter of days!
On a more serious note, we do need a stronger mechanism for the EC to scrutinise or verify the details of assets disclosed by electoral candidates. This should not be the preserve of civil society – Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) can dissect and analyse the information and present to the public, but it does not have the power to investigate, nor should they have to. This is the responsibility of the state. As far as I know though, there is no official mechanism to verify asset declarations by candidates
2 Dec update: Manish Tewari responds:
“If Huffington Post would stick to huffing puffing then I think they would do a much better job for themselves. Because If you do put out these absurd and ridiculous things out in print, then you only open yourself to be made a laughing stock. I would not even like to dignify with a response,”