A new low in wayward politics

It has been a hard week for Karnataka politics. A shocker really as it has never happened in the history of the world. We could still be shocked after scandals like Silvio Berlusconi, Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Three politicians from Karnataka hit international headlines when they were caught allegedly viewing an adult video on a mobile phone when the Assembly session was underway. The incident was unbelievable to start off with but the act was caught on camera by several television crews. It was indeed true.

The three ministers stepped down from their cabinet posts and are now in line to respond to a show-cause notice. Will they be asked to give up their membership of the state Assembly? Highly unlikely as the Opposition has a really weak case especially when they have N D Tiwari and Mahipal Maderna to deal with.

While several questions have been raised about the double standards of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even as they preach about tradition and culture, it has also literally brought the cat out of the bag. These sorts of ‘experiences’ aren’t very new to politics and politicians. And this is something that the politicians themselves admit.

A senior BJP leader who also happens to be a seasoned lawyer narrated to me, how in the eighties, during a trip to Belgrade in Serbia, several MLAs from Karnataka insisted on making a trip to a nearby city (I have been unable to verify this independently or even locate the name of this city) where the people are said to be completely naked (that’s how they live). Anyone who visits is also expected to be not wearing any clothes. Despite this particular member’s protests, the other politicians are said to have made the trip to that city (don’t know if they had to abide by the ‘no clothes’ clause!).

During another trip to Bangkok, a senior politician wanted to ‘experience’ the ‘real’ Bangkok. Assuming that his wife who was accompanying him would object, he requested another lady politician to ‘convince’ her. Such was the state! And desperation!

This BJP source also tells me that back in 1996 when the Miss World pageant was scheduled to take place in Bangalore, there was a quiet uncertainty that right-wing groups such as the party itself would object since their parties always object to women being looked at as commodities. But in this case, several members of the party made appeals to their colleagues not to protest against holding of the pageant in Bangalore, as it would give them an opportunity ‘to see beautiful women’.

While none of the above has been independently verified, it has come straight from the mouth of a BJP leader. This leader also felt that the entire ‘porngate’ episode was being exaggerated and blown out of proportion. An argument being made is that watching pornography is not an offence under the Information Technology Act, but broadcasting it is and therefore the media can be punished for televising these clips as sharing or passing on a porn clip is an offence (Some media channels did not blur the video, while others did).

The argument of course is weak. The BJP is in no position to explain itself well and has therefore been coming up with some ridiculous excuses.

Some say the three ministers have paid their price. Others ask if we have the moral right to judge them on the basis of that behavior. Will their watching an adult video impact their performance as ministers? Yet others feel that all this will be forgotten when the elections take place next year.

But whatever happened in the past, the matter boils down to what happened now. These three ministers had no right to do what they were doing. For every day they attend Assembly, they receive ‘sitting fees’. We pay them to do their job. And their job is not to entertain themselves during work. Even if they were watching a video of Katrina Kaif gyrating to the tune of Sheila ki Jawaani, I still believe they would be doing wrong. So it’s not just about having watched an adult video during a session. They could have very conveniently done so in the lounge outside the Assembly hall or in the confines of their homes. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that this matter will be looked at from the point of responsibility (and morality).

It may be a practice long seen in politics but it’s a new low nevertheless.

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