Will Sonia Gandhi please speak up?
How much is Sonia Gandhi really worth? If the recent declarations by the Congress president and head of Gandhi family are anything to go by, a ‘value judgement’ is certainly due. Gandhi, in the affidavit while filing her nomination papers from home turf Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, has said that her plum ancestral property in Italy might be worth only Rs 19 lakh, even though it is situated in the heart of a bustling commercial area in Orbassano, in northern Italy. Sonia Gandhi’s arithmetic yields strangely deflated estimates of her assets, with her declared asset worth only Rs 9 crore according to the affidavit. Gandhi has, very intriguingly, added a clause on ‘her share’ in the inherited property, which substantially lowers her claim in the real estate, and keeps up her image of an austere politician fighting for the rights of the poor. Bringing down the value of her property might have been considered a superb pre-poll strategy to garner sympathy from the Gandhi’s traditional vote bank, the poorer classes, had the discrepancies in her files not become a topic of heated debate amongst the election pundits and independent watchers responsible for a fair and transparent polling process. Real estate experts have already contradicted Gandhi’s declaration saying that the 861 sq ft flat in Orbassano is worth at least Rs 1.2 crore, given the Piemonte region is a hub of industrial and business houses located in and around Torino and Milan. This logic-defying calculation offered by the first family of Congress party and the grand dame of Indian politics, indeed, does not set a stellar example of model code of conduct as pected by the election commission.
While an earlier report by a US-based portal had placed Sonia Gandhi above the Queen of England in the scale of personal wealth, the Congress president and UPA chairperson had hotly contested the claims and had the article taken off from the website. Given that her son-in-law Robert Vadra had been implicated in real estate scam worth thousands of crores and inasmuch as the longstanding hold the Gandhi family has had on Indian political nexus, Sonia Gandhi’s declaration appears not just laughable, but in fact, ridiculously immoral. In an age when demand for digital and ethical transparency in every sphere of operation is gaining ground every day, Gandhi’s strangely infeasible sounding proclamation is more than a letdown. Clearly showing the absolute condescension that the political top brass has for the common voters, Sonia Gandhi’s grossly underestimating of her assets in the public sphere sets a terrible example indeed. Her declared income, a mere Rs 66 lakh in bank accounts, Rs 10 lakh worth of bonds and shares worth Rs 1.90 lakh, as well a cash worth only Rs 85,000, is undoubtedly just the tip of the asset iceberg on which the lady presides. This brazen disregard for political honesty, however, is not completely out of sync with the baggage of corruption that has bogged UPA down. Evidently, the party supremo has not imbibed the lessons of anti-incumbency. It is time she comes clean on the actual worth of her assets and establish a new norm for others to follow. Digging out inconvenient facts is something that is no more impossible in this electronic age and certain revelations may leave Gandhi red faced.