If wealth be health, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Council of Ministers is pretty much in the pink. Of the 44 members in Modi's ministerial team, no less than 41 or 91 per cent are crorepatis. This compares rather favourably with the United Progressive Alliance II's Council of Ministers, where 47 of 79 ministers just about 60 per cent were similarly wealthy.
Union Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley is the richest minister of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government with assets totalling Rs 114.03 crore. It is Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, however, whose assets have shown the greatest increase of Rs 10.46 crore since he took over as minister, from Rs 9.88 crore as declared in the Lok Sabha elections to Rs 20.35 crore now.
The wealth of Modi's ministers has been analysed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) by comparing the declarations filed for the Lok Sabha elections in May this year and those sent about five months later to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Declarations of 45 ministers, including Modi himself, have been thus analysed. Of the 45 ministers, 37 had contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and eight are members of the Rajya Sabha.
Unlike the railway minister, Jaitley's assets have shown an increase of Rs.1.01 crore in the same period. Jaitley's assets rose in value from Rs 113.02 crore during the Lok Sabha polls to Rs 114.03 crore in the 2014 disclosure to the PMO.
He is fond of luxury cars and has declared ownership of high-end cars like a Porsche worth Rs 1.02 crore, and vehicles from Mercedes Benz and BMW among others. Gowda's growth is on the fast track primarily because he has acquired a commercial building worth Rs 13.49 lakh as well as a residential building worth Rs.11.65 crore.
Matter of assets
The average value of assets of Modi's Council of Ministers, according to the declarations on the PMO website, is Rs 14.32 crore. Following Jaitley on the rich list are Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Rs.108.31 crore) and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal of the Bharatiya Janata Party (Rs 94.66 crore).
According to the ADR, many Union ministers including Gowda, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Ananth Kumar, Jitendra Kumar, Manoj Sinha, and Santosh Kumar Gangwar have not declared the value of their agricultural land in their declarations.
On the not-so-rich side, the least wealth has been declared by Sudarshan Bhagat of BJP (Rs 59.13 lakh) followed by Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava of the BJP (Rs 65.71 lakh) and Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janashakti Party (Rs 95.71 lakh).
Among the ministers who contested the Lok Sabha 2014 elections, the highest increase in assets in five months has been shown by D.V. Sadananda Gowda of the BJP (Cabinet Minister for Railways). Gowda is followed by Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Radhakrishnan P. of the BJP who has shown an increase of Rs 2.98 crore from the Rs 4.09 crore he declared in the Lok Sabha polls. The reason for the increase in the property of many ministers, including Radhakrishnan P. has been difficult to evaluate as some ministers have not declared the values of their assets in a comprehensive format.
The great dip
There are 16 ministers whose wealth has shrunk in the journey from the General Elections to the Council of Ministers. The greatest decrease is for External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj whose wealth has fallen by Rs 3.89 crore (from Rs 17.55 crore to Rs 13.65 crore). She is followed by Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North-eastern Region Gen. (Retd) V.K. Singh of BJP who has declared a decrease of Rs 3.13 crore (from Rs 4.11 crore declared in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to Rs 98.27 lakh declared in the disclosure to the PMO). The former Army chief is followed by Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan of BJP who has declared a decrease of Rs.1.28 crore (from Rs.2.82 crore declared in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to Rs.1.54 crore in the disclosure to the PMO).
The declaration of assets by the ministers has been made according to the Code of Conduct issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs which makes it mandatory for every minister to disclose details of their assets and liabilities.
The 2009 UPA Council of Ministers had 47 crorepati members, of which 38 were from the Congress, five from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, two from the Nationalist Congress Party, and one each from the National Conference and Trinamool Congress. NCP leader Praful Patel was the richest of the lot with assets worth Rs.89.9 crore.