How much wealth should a political leader possess? How does being wealthy and rich help political leaders to champion the cause of the commoners? Indeed, these are the tricky questions. The relation between wealth and politics is much-debated issue, perhaps in every democracy around the world. But the basics we all have to agree is that political leaders who preach transparency, austerity and investment on productive sectors should also live up to these promises. After all, how wealthy a political leader is secondary to whether or how the leader has contributed to the common cause or whether what they do also encourage the commoners. Testing these ideas against the backdrop of wealth and property possession of our leaders, there is hardly anything to inspire. The property details of the prime minister and other ministers made public by the government on Wednesday show complete mismatch between what they preach and what they have been doing. The details show they have all fallen for greed for gold and they love to invest their wealth mostly in unproductive sectors.
Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth is the richest minister with over one billion rupees property. Other ministers, including the PM, have disproportionately high amount of gold. Mahaseth possesses 52 tolas (583.190 grams) and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli around 18 tolas of gold. Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration Lal Babu Pandit, who earned fame for advocating for frugality, has 10 tolas of gold, 15 tolas of silver and Rs 5.5 million cash in bank accounts. Going by the property details, it seems our leaders who preach equality are more equal than the rest of the people. Most of the leaders have put their property—including gold and land—in the name of their spouses. Ironically, while big leaders have been found reluctant to fulfill even the mandatory 33 percent quotas for women in the cabinet and high posts in the central committees, they seem generous about letting almost all properties in the name of their spouses. The income status of some of the ministers, including the prime minister, is found to have increased disproportionately within a matter of few months.
Interestingly, none of the ministers have invested their wealth in the sector that could create gainful employment for job-starved youths. Ministers like Rabindra Adhikari, from whom people have expected something different, possesses 60 tolas of gold worth Rs 3.5 million that remains unproductive. It may be recalled that parliamentary panel in March, 2017 had endorsed the Bill Related to Reforms in Social Conduct, which among other things, had banned any kind of dowry and stated that any breach of the provision will be punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine equal to the amount of dowry. It had limited gold ‘donation’ during the wedding to 40 grams from the bride’s side and 10 grams for engagement ceremony. Some ministers have given details of ornaments that were received from foreigners as gifts. This raises the question of whether the leaders holding public posts are entitled to receive such ‘gifts’ from the foreigners. Communist leaders have projected themselves as poor but their life styles and property status show they are bent on amassing properties but least bothered about generating entrepreneurship. Most people think they are much richer than they claim and property details—unveiling which has become a ritual exercise—are meant to hide their real wealth. Political leaders should set the right example for people to follow.