There can be no two ways about upholding the highest sense of decorum when one holds a public office.
I remember an elderly colleague of mine in The Statesman at Kolkata, where I worked for a decade, borrowing copies of the Playboy from his younger team mates to read, as he said, the excellent interviews which were published in the magazine. Ah, well, the interviews were indeed exceptional, but so were the nudes. Which sizzled so sexily from the pages.
Vinod Mehta writes in his biography that Debonair (once referred to as the Indian Playboy) he edited was read by Atal Behari Vajpayee, former prime minister of India. But he quipped that he had to hide it under his pillow.
It does not, therefore, surprise me that the other day, the government stopped the telecast of The Dirty Picture, where Indian actress Vidya Balan enacts the life and times of the South Indian sex siren, Silk Smitha (who killed herself).
Mind you, the movie had been mauled by the censors, insisting on some 50 or 60 cuts, and had been released theatrically!
A day after India’s television watchers were deprived of this “titillation”, an equally steamy stuff went viral on social sites. They played the “amorous escapade” of Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress Party spokesperson and head of a parliamentary panel.
A diskette reportedly captured Singhvi showing off his sexual prowess to a woman advocate while offering her a High Court judge’s chair. Singhvi said the entire thing was morphed.
When the opposition (the Bharatiya Janata Party/BJP in particular) cried for Singhvi’s blood, he resigned from both the posts he held.
(The BJP had no moral authority, though, to demand Singhvi’s resignation, for three of its own party legislators were recently caught watching pornography in the Karnataka Assembly, violating the sanctity of the House, but were let off lightly.)
The second best option
However, Singhvi argued that his resignation did not imply he was guilty.
“I have done this only to prevent even the slightest possible parliamentary disruption regarding the purported CD being circulated about me… I did not think it fit to subject the party to any inconvenience on this account.”
The actual debate which followed the Singhvi episode was not on the man’s misdemeanour, but on whether the private life of a public figure ought to be discussed. In this context, should the freedom of the social media be curbed?
It is such a pity that discussions in India invariably digress from the main issue. The point here is not the freedom of Twitter or Facebook or YouTube, but the licence of a person in the public arena – especially one who is an elected representative of the people – to act in manner that is corrupt and morally degrading.
Here was Singhvi allegedly asking for sex in return for an official favour he was promising to grant. And when this diskette (supposed to have been the work of a disgruntled driver) fell into the lap of the media, they tried to air it. But they were restrained by a court order, which Singhvi had managed to obtain.
So, I presume someone in the media thought of the second best option: put it on social sites.
In the final analysis, there can be no two ways about upholding the highest sense of decorum when one holds a public office.
Nobody can object to two adults having consensual sex, but if a people’s representative offers a public position – that too a judge’s post – in return for fun in bed, I would think it then becomes the business of the country and its people.
What could be wrong if such an affair is posted on social sites if only to evoke a debate? The government instead of chastising the guilty, gets busy trying to fetter the social media.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at[email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.