The curious case of Amit Shah and Smriti Irani’s affidavits

Disappearance of a report from websites on Amit Shah’s ‘increasing’ wealth and Smriti Irani’s ‘decreasing’ educational qualifications trigger outrage and jokes

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

NH Web Desk

The news-reports on the wealth of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and educational qualification of Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, carried on their websites by Times of India, Economic Times, Navbharat Times and DNA on Saturday, dramatically disappeared, taken down within hours.

The original report published under the joint byline by Himanshu Kaushik and Kapil Dave by TOI’s Ahmedabad edition, quoted the affidavit filed by the BJP national president while filing his nomination for the Rajya Sabha to inform that Shah’s self-declared assets had increased 300 percent between 2012, when he last filed his nomination papers during Gujarat assembly election, and 2017.

“Shah’s movable and immovable (including his wife’s) assets which were worth Rs 8.54 crore in 2012, are now worth Rs 34.31 crore,” the report said. It is interesting to note that Shah’s assets are double the assets attributed by the BJP to the combined wealth of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, his wife Rabri Devi, his two sons and the eldest daughter, which were valued at around Rs 17 crore as per a report in The Indian Express.

The reports taken down by the websites also recorded that “the movable and immovable (including her husband’s) properties of Smiti Irani in 2014 were worth Rs 4.91 crore but the value of her self-declared assets increased to Rs 8.88 crore, an 80 per cent increase during the same period.”

The report also revealed that Smriti Irani for the first time appeared to have acknowledged that her sworn affidavit in 2004 about her educational qualification was false. While unsuccessfully contesting for the Lok Sabha in 2004, she had claimed to have done her B.A in 1996 from Delhi University. But when she filed her nomination for the Rajya Sabha in 2012, she claimed that she had done her B.Com part I in 1994.

The discrepancy in her affidavit, an offence under the law, had led to an election petition and a complaint to the court. But while the complaints remain pending, the Union I & B Minister who also holds the charge of Textile appears to have set the record straight in the latest affidavit by acknowledging that she had not completed B.Com.

In August 2014, in the middle of a raging controversy over her educational qualification—she had also asserted that she had a degree from Yale University in the US.

In May, a fresh petition was filed in the Delhi High Court alleging submission of contradictory information by the BJP leader regarding her educational qualification in different election affidavits. Khan had earlier filed a similar petition in the trial court which was rejected after court observed that the complaint was intended to "harass" the minister.

Notably, the self-sworn affidavits of Shah and the other Rajya Sabha candidates in Gujarat have not yet been uploaded on the website of the Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat.

Even though the original links of the stories still show up in Google search, upon clicking the link, one comes across error reports suggesting that the story pages have been taken down without any explanation. A click on the original link to the TOI report says: “We're sorry, we seem to have lost this page, but we don't want to lose you.” Similarly, the DNA page denies access, saying that: “you’re not authorised to access this page.” But one can still access the report in DNA’s e-paper which is available on its website.

A parody Twitter account of Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav was prompt in reacting to the news. In a tweet, this account asked Prime Minister Modi to explain as to how Shah’s assets have grown by 300 per cent in just five years.

Even though the stories have been taken down from the news-websites, many social media users have been sharing the screenshots in the virtual world.

This has further cemented public perception about Modi government’s control over mainstream media and its double talk over propriety, transparency and accountability in public life. On twitter, hashtags like #ShahControlsMedia have been dominating the trend with many heaving a sigh of relief that “only stories had disappeared online and not the journalists who reported them.”

Here’s a collection of some of the reactions over the revelations made by the news-stories and their mysterious disappearance from the websites which initially published them:

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Published: 30 Jul 2017, 5:18 PM