THE MORALITY TRAP
There is a lot of hypocrisy whenever we subject politicians to strict moral codes because they are, after all, part of the society. India has never been over- obsessed with who the politicians are meeting or what their personal preferences or sexual habits are. There have been sly references in the past to powerful politicians’ romantic interests. But never to their carnal interests. The controversy over Abhishek Manu Singhvi is not even romantic.
Peeping into peoples’ private homes and bedrooms and making it public speaks of acute depravity. Privacy should be respected. Singhvi himself says in his resignation letter to the Congress party that even if the CD is genuine, it was consensual between two adults. If there was some inequality, we can step in and talk about violation of rights. But I do think an individual has to choose what is right or wrong for himself within his family life.
Power is an aphrodisiac. Politicians in power in any society, be it the West or the East, tend to indulge in sexual activities to enhance their sense of self, or maybe their sense of power over other people. In my mind, anything that has to do with male power over female or any other subject of society is immoral. Love and sex are equations of equals, and should not become a power play. Be it Clinton and his escapade with Monica Lewinsky, or the case of our own Abhishek Singhvi, it is a power play because one has something to offer because of his power and influence and the other wants what is on offer. It is consensual, but it is an act between two unequals ( the giver and the taker) and that is not acceptable to me.
As for the refrain, ‘ leaders to be subjected to strict code of conduct because people tend to emulate them’, for goodness’ sake, Abhishek Singhvi is no mass hero. Nor is he a leader worthy of emulation. He is a career lawyer and a career politician who has worked his way up in the system. People know the distinction.
Looking at some international parallels, the French have never bothered about morality. For them, fidelity is not a major issue. I admire Nicolas Sarkozy. As French president, he had the courage of conviction to divorce his wife during his presidency due to marital problems and marry his current love who went on to bear a child. This is transparency, honesty and truth, I trust. Whatever happens in secrecy is cowardly and deceitful.
If an Indian politician had the moral courage to be open about his romantic interest, when in power or out of power as a parliamentarian, I would still respect him. But if he were to do this in secrecy and hiding, while pretending to have a perfect family life, it is wrong.
America has always had a stricter code of conduct for its politicians than India has. Any American running for president is always seen holding hands and giving toothy smiles with his spouse. They have to present the perfect American family picture. But how true this picture is, in the context of most of America, I am not sure. The wives are always seen laughing, waving, air- kissing. I guess it is about presenting an emotionally and sexually satisfied image. The concept must be that the greatest husband and father will make the greatest president on earth.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is sick and needs treatment. Using his public office and stature to procure young girls as an indulgence is unpardonable.
I want to make a distinction here about the social media in peoples’ bedrooms and the media recording MLAS in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly watching porn. Those MLAS had a public duty, as elected representatives. Their time in the Assembly is paid for by the taxpayers. They are supposed to deliberate, argue and do the best for the people of Karnataka during that time. If they watched porn in their own houses late in the night, it would be of no concern to me. But they were sitting in the Assembly and playing porn videos, when their minds had to be engaged in the passing of legislation. The media has every right to capture misdoings of public persons in a public place.
Abhishek Singhvi did whatever he did in his private space in his private time. If he did indulge in this act in Parliament or in any public office, then there could be censure. Now, he merits only pity.
Power is an aphrodisiac. Politicians in power in any society tend to indulge in sexual activities, to enhance their sense of self, or maybe their sense of
power over other people.
Pratibha Prahlad is a classical dancer. This article is based on her
conversation with Sowmya Aji.