THE MORAL­ITY TRAP

India Today - - UP FRONT - PRAT­I­BHA PRAHLAD

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.

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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