The Huffington Post World is one of the most viewed websites on the Internet and has a very high reputation. It recently reported a list of the richest world leaders after investigating credible sources. Among the leaders listed is the name of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi who at number twelve is way down the list with a measly 2 billion US dollars verified in her account compared to, say Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin who topped the list of politicians with 40 billion to his credit.
Congress spokesperson Mr. Manish Tiwari rubbished the report and stated: “If Huffington Post would stick to huffing and puffing then I think they would do a much better job for themselves. Because, if you put out these absurd and ridiculous things out in print, then you only open yourself to be made a laughing stock.” One can appreciate Mr. Tiwari’s constraints as the party spokesperson forcing him to say something so downright silly. But he could have kept silent and ignored the news instead of making a remark so ridiculous. When will our politicians understand that times have changed? There is a new generation out there which is not only very well informed thanks to the Internet but is fed up with hypocrisy. People can stomach even unpleasant truth these days but prefer transparency to stupid unconvincing hypocrisy.
This is not them first time that information about Mrs. Gandhi’s foreign wealth has been published. Several times the allegation has been published even in these columns. The damaging facts are clear enough. In November 1991 after obtaining information from sources within Swiss banks the highly reputed Swiss journal, Schweitzer Illustrate, reported a list of politicians with numbered accounts. Among them was listed Rajiv Gandhi with an equivalent of 2 billion US dollars. This report appeared when Mrs. Gandhi was out of power and the party never bothered to contradict it. However, Schweitzer Illustrate is after all also a media outlet like Huffington Post and may therefore be overlooked.
How can the information by a former member of the official KGB Commission having full access to secret files of the KGB in a book, The State within a State: KGB and Its Hold on Russia, be ignored? The author, Dr. Yevegenia Albats disclosed that the then KGB chief made payment in US dollars to “the family members of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ms Paola Maino, mother of Sonia Gandhi.” These payments had commenced in 1971. However, even this might be ignored as the allegation by an individual even though a former official.
How on earth can Mr. Tiwari or any other Congress leader ignore that in 1992 the official spokesman of the Russian government confirmed the truth of the book’s disclosure and even defended it as necessary for “Soviet ideological interest”? The Hindu of July 4, 1992 carried this report. This was official confirmation by the Russian government soon after the disintegration of the Soviet empire. Commenting on this statement by the Russian government I wrote on November 8, 2006: “Until now there has been only deafening silence from Mrs. Gandhi and the Congress party….If the Albats allegation published in a reputed research book is false, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi should promptly deny it. Otherwise, her silence could be perceived as assent."
Mr. Tiwari and indeed all politicians of all parties had better wake up. Transparency is unavoidable. Instead of mouthing silly falsehoods that nobody believes they should candidly acknowledge the truth. No politics conducted by any politician in India can operate within the ambit of law. All elections are fought with black and illegal money. The public knows this. It will not be shocked by its acknowledgment by our leaders. But the public, specially the segment comprising the new young generation, is increasingly frustrated and disappointed by the failure of our politicians to reform the system which is an entirely feasible prospect.