Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi often finds herself at the centre of social media storms and ‘targeted’ attacks that are based on doctored or manipulated posts and images (see here, here and here).
One such claim, that seems to resurface periodically, is that she is among the richest politicians in the world.
A similar claim was made by a Facebook page called I Support Modi Ji and BJP, that shared a newspaper clip claiming that Gandhi was the“fourth richest in the world.”
The caption of the post read: “अम्बानी अदानी ने लाखों लोगो को रोजगार दिए कारखाने खोले तब अमीर बने. पर सोनिआ गाँधी कैसे अमीर बानी? (Ambani and Adani became rich after giving jobs to lakhs of people and opening factories. How did Sonia Gandhi become rich?)”
The post was quoting a Dainik Jagran article that said that Gandhi was the fourth richest politician in the world. However, the post itself said that she was the fourth richest person in the world.
The viral post has been shared over 5,500 times at last count.
Sonia Gandhi is 4th richest politician in the world , can someone plz tell me her source of income ? #BlackMoney— Ramesh Solanki (@Rajput_Ramesh) November 10, 2013
This had led to a lot of outrage against the Congress leader with news of her alleged wealth trending with #LooteriBahu on Twitter at the time.
CONTROVERSY SPARKED BY UNSUBSTANTIATED REPORTS
All the reports, social media posts and the brouhaha thereafter was sparked by unsubstantiated reports in the Huffington Post and Business Insider.
In a controversial list published by Huffington Post in 2013, titled ‘The Richest World Leaders Are Even Richer Than You Thought’, Gandhi's name was shown to be richer than Queen Elizabeth and Bassar Al Assad.
A similar claim (that she was the fourth richest politician) was made by Business Insider earlier, in a 2012 report, saying that Gandhi’s net worth was between $2-19 billion.
WHAT’S THE TRUTH?
While there is a litany of such claims on social media and on several news portals, the primary source of the data is unsubstantiated.
Soon after publication of the Huffington Post report, the organisation received a lot of flak for failing to justify their claim and issued a retraction stating, “Gandhi was originally included based on a listing on a third party site which was subsequently called into question. Our editors have been unable to verify the amount, removed the link, and regret any confusion.”
The third party website quoted by Huffington Post was CelebrityNetWorth.com. The website’s disclaimer said that though all information presented was gathered from sources which are thought to be reliable, the viewer should not assume that such information is up to date or completely accurate or final.
According to this website, “She (Sonia Gandhi) personally states her wealth to be between $200,000 and $500,000, but several sources including OpenSecrets.org and Business Insider have estimated that Sonia’s actual wealth could be as low as $2 billion and might be as high as $19 billion.”
Celebrity Net Worth had quoted Business Insider as one of its sources.
Meanwhile, the Business Insider story credits the source of its data to a website called ‘World’s Luxury Guide’, a website that no longer exists and had no legitimacy to begin with.
According to an Alt News report, ‘World’s Luxury Guide’ had provided – opensecret.org, forbes.com, bloomberg.com, wikipedia.org and guardian.co.uk – as its sources.
The report looked into all the sources quoted and found that no such data exists on any of the websites or their archives to support the claim, thus concluding that Business Insider (and ‘World’s Luxury Guide’) was not a source that could be trusted.
And as for Gandhi’s net worth as quoted in the report, the wide range given – $2-19 billion – itself is a dead giveaway that these numbers are baseless.
Meanwhile, the National Election Watch website of the Association for Democratic Rights puts Gandhi’s assets at Rs 1.38 crore, a far cry from the ludicrous numbers quoted in the above reports.
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