Netas Dog Millionaires
By Poonam I Kaushish
Heard this week’s flavour amidst the ongoing maelstrom over the Rs 11,000 diamond heist of Nirav Modi? Lies, damn lies and statistics. Which trash Modi’s war against corruption. Who else but our mai-baaps who cock a snook at the safedi ke chamkaan swatchh image. Any wonder then that rajniti is the best dhanda and our netagan’s greatest asset is his lie-ability!
Faced with proof of undue accretion of income and assets of 26 Lok Sabha, 11 Rajya Sabha MPs and 257 MLAs which grew over 500% to 1200% between two polls 2009-2014 as reflected in their election affidavits, a sure sign of misuse of offices to humour their own in bagging major Government orders, an alarmed Supreme Court made it obligatory for candidates to reveal their incomes sources, spouses and dependent children, along-with their share or interest in Government contracts. As this would help voters make an informed choice of a candidate.
Castigating “Parliament and Election Commission for not paying any attention to the problem so far,” it wondered what prevented the Executive from amending election rules to make such undue accumulation of assets an electoral disqualification, besides a criminal offence.
Questionably, how can unemployed jan sevaks amass huge wealth? How did they earn it? Can they run private businesses? If so, what takes precedents? National or selfish interests? Did they pay proper income taxes? Is there any law or rule that can ask how they acquired this wealth? What about ‘black’ and monies in Swiss banks and other safe havens? While our tax authorities have still to unravel these and the Panama Papers, Pakistan ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been sentenced.
A cursory glance at declarations made by candidates of their movable and immovable assets at the time of filing their nominations, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry for my beloved country. Most declarations are hilarious, others tickle, some raise eyebrows and not a few are simply outrageous. Indeed, nothing costs a nation more than a cheap politician.
Let’s start with the Nehru-Gandhi Khandaan. A dynasty that has ruled India for over six decades is worth Rs 3.70 crores between mother son duo, Sonia and Rahul. The Congress President’s has assets worth Rs 2.81 crores and two agricultural plots valued at Rs.6.27 crores. (Who’s she kidding?) and a house in Italy worth Rs19.90 lakhs. Lucky her, she can’t think of buying a DDA flat in Delhi for that amount. Jewellery worth only Rs 62.26 lakhs. (Is this a joke?)
Son Rahul’s net worth is pegged at. Rs.9.40 crores including a 4.692 acre farm in Mehrauli, valued at Rs 1.32 crores. Is that a misprint? More like Rs 100 crores. Another 6 acre plot in Faridabad, worth Rs 28 lakh. Only? And two shops in a mall worth Rs 1.58 crore. Neither owns a car. Why should they? They ‘own’ India.
BJP President Amit Shah’s declared assets totalled Rs 34.31 crores (movable Rs 19.01 crores and immovable properties Rs 15.30 crores) while filing his Rajya Sabha nomination in July. A hefty 300% jump from his 2012 affidavit as an MLA candidate in 2013 wherein he had declared movable assets worth Rs 1.90 crores and immovable properties worth Rs 6.63 crores.
What to say of our ‘Made in India’ netas — school teacher-turned Dalit messiah Mayawati brazenly explains her vast prime real estate holdings by asserting if a Thakur and Brahmin can be crorepatis why not a Dalit ke beti. Why not indeed! Mum’s the word when it comes to the dazzling diamonds she flaunts on her birthdays. Silly, that’s how the Maya-bhakhts show affection. Certainly, it pays rich dividends to be a politician.
Samajwadi supremo Mulayam’s properties grew by 613% and bahu Dimple’s by 210%. Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar’s ladli Supriya Sule’s assets more than doubled from Rs 51.53 crores to Rs 113.90 crores (121%). Less said the better of chara scam Lalu who has moveable assets worth Rs.12 lakh and his school dropout son is a crorepati. How? Less said the better of 2G scam Raja who is worth only Rs 3.16 crores!
There is the classic case of a Congress MP whose assets in 2004 were Rs 9.6 crores and rose to Rs 299 crores, a jaw-dropping 3000% jump in 2009. While income of four MPs increased by 1200%, 22 declared asset raise of over 500% and eight Rajya Sabha legislators a 200% rise, a majority said they had no paid work. Yet 58% are crorepatis worth over Rs 5 crores! An Assam MLA declared over 5,000% increase and his Kerala compatriot over 1,700% since the 2011 Assembly elections.
Not a few politicians mentioned random professions like agriculture, social service and business in their affidavits. One neta declared Government service as his profession and showed his annual income to be Rs 3 crores. Which Government service gives Rs 3 crores? Worse, 113 of the 542 MPs described their profession as politics, menial worker and housewife. Sic.
Given that corruption is such an old song which our netas sing along in harmony Modi pledge of a Bhrashtachar Mukt Bharat seems tall talk. More so, in an era wherein conduct of public affairs is for private advantage and amassing tremendous personal fortune through abuse of political power is one of the perks of our polity’s trade as emphasized by their increase in wealth. Naturally the public has to take these inconsistencies in wealth with large chunks of salt, treating them with disdain.
It remains to be seen if the verdict will compel the Centre to amend the law, whereby a lawmaker can suffer disqualification from office for holding shares or an interest in a business venture that enters into dealings with a Government-run company, a sentiment which the Election Commission has echoed as well.
Among many things, the Election Commission will need to be strengthened and given more teeth. It should be given powers to take strong deterrent action against netas whose income has risen disquietingly in five years along-with setting up a special cell to monitor this. Realtors could be hired as consultants to verify a property’s market worth. Filing of income tax returns could also be made obligatory.
Further, the income tax department should tally the affidavits with our netagan’s I-T returns. And, if need be, hire auditors to ensure their IT returns and affidavits match to the last digit. One could also consider a restriction on the number of terms a person can hold public office. Our leaders like Caesar’s wife need to be above suspicion and lead by example.
Do our netas stand for Satyameva Jayete or for the degenerated Asatyameve Jayate? Clearly, Modi has to cleanse the rot in the political backyard as this is a sure indicator of the beginning of a failing democracy. If left unattended, it would inevitably lead to the destruction of democracy and pave the way for the rule of mafia.
Consequently, the time has come to stop banking on a candidate’s self-proclaimed honesty and morality. Let the people, the ultimate repository of sovereignty in a democracy, squeeze the last drop of their “safedi ka chamatkar” to rid the polity of its increasing fifty and dirt. The ball is now in the Modi Sarkar court to practise what it preaches to the aam aadmi. Will it bite the bullet? —- INFA