The declaration of financial assets and liabilities as a prerequisite for contesting elections has become a joke. As a personal confessional offering a peek into the probity of the candidate (and his/her family), the clause is unexceptionable. But at the hands of wily politicians, their lawyers and auditors—and individuals and institutions happy to look the other way—the affidavit has become just another piece of paper.
Bogus numbers are bandied without batting an eyelid, but neither opposing candidates nor the Election Commission, or the income-tax department or the media, are interested in digging deeper to establish their veracity. Even the supposedly wise voter, it seems, cannot be bothered about such niceties beyond a point.
A good case in point is the honourable Member of Parliament from Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, Rahul Gandhi.
# In 2004, he declared total assets of Rs 22 lakh. In five years, the assets of the first-time MP have shot up 10 times to 2.25 crore.
# In 2004, he held bank deposits of Rs 11 lakh, £30,000 and $19,200; shares of Rs 3.9 lakh; LIC and other savings certificates in Rs 3.80 lakh; jewellery worth Rs 1.25 lakh; and a farm house worth Rs 9.8 lakh.
# In 2009, he holds bank deposits of about Rs 20 lakh, LIC and other savings certificates of Rs 10.2 lakh; land worth Rs 40 lakh, jewellery worth Rs 1.5 lakh; and two shops in a mall worth Rs 1.63 crore.
What is the one question you are dying to ask Rahul Gandhi about his assets and liabilities? Keep your questions short, civil and proportionate to your known source of income.
Photograph: Press Trust of India