The 'power' aphrodisiac

The 'power' aphrodisiac

The Karnataka Assembly sleaze blot is the latest among high-profile sex scandals .  

When three Karnataka ministers sit in the hallowed Legislative Assembly, hide a smart phone beneath their desk, and share a porn video clip in less time than it takes them to say 'Aye' to have a Bill passed in the Assembly, we have certainly reached some kind of new societal landmark. Technology produced the Second Coming - the Internet - and then broadband and bluetooth, making pornography, indisputably, omnipresent. In 2007, a quarter of all Internet searches were related to pornography, reveals one study. Pervasive hard-core porn has allowed many people to flirt openly with practises that may have always been desired, but had been deeply buried under social restraint.

But free access to porn alone does not justify the action of the trio, dubbed as “three ‘idiot’ ministers of the ruling BJP” by the tabloid press. They were not just violating the sanctity of a House which they love to tout as the “temple of democracy”, but also frittering away precious legislature time meant to discuss people’s problems. The ministers did claim that they were viewing the video depicting gang rape of a woman to “educate” themselves on abuse of women, and the benefit of doubt could easily lie on their side as one of them was in charge of women and child development ministry. However, private TV channels beamed photographs of the dirty act that were as explicit as the extreme video clip itself and the ministers had no choice but to resign.

It is good for our elected representatives to keep abreast of change, but it is important to distinguish between what has changed and what hasn’t. Parliament and legislatures have always been and will continue to be sacrosanct institutions in a democracy as they symbolise people’s mandate. And the violation of this sacred space is completely unnegotiable under whatever maybe the changed circumstances or technological possibilities.

As a culture, we don't take sex scandals seriously enough and don't take it lightly enough either. The alleged sexual preoccupations of people’s representatives while holding public office, across the country, is legion. In Karnataka, the most sordid episode of recent times was the octogenarian former Andhra Pradesh Governor N D Tiwari carrying on a sexual orgy in his official residence, the Raj Bhavan. Caught on spy camera, he had to bow out.

Some decades ago, two veteran Karnataka politicians, who went on to become chief ministers, were christened "Lava" and "Kusha" for their popular habit of sharing everything, including 'girlfriends'. But they were discreet enough to keep their private lives away from public glare and within the walled privacy of their favourite haunt, a Bangalore hotel, where they met regularly to discuss state craft and spend happy hours.

Another strapping minister of the same era was given to boasting with friends that he never "took on" the same sexual partner a second time. That he was much married is another thing, and that he was never "caught" is quite another.
The late chief minister J H Patel's candid admission of his weakness for "wine and women" during a media interview, never let him rid himself of the taint.

And there are scores of instances of leaders who accommodated their extra-marital love affairs with dubious felicity. The dual accommodation at their disposal - official quarters and a private home which they generally vacate while in office - facilitated their split lives. And it is not uncommon for their lovers to be rewarded with a ministerial berth, or a Legislative Council seat without having to fight an election.

Intimate encounters

Kerala politicians’ intimate encounters were first reported in 1964, when the then home minister and Congress stalwart P T Chacko met with an accident while driving his car. Rescuers found a lady with him in the car and the ensuing scandal saw Chacko losing his position. He could never recover fully from its impact.
But succeeding politicians were far luckier as they managed to wriggle out of scandals and police cases without severe damage. The next sensational scandal came only as late as 1996 in the form of Suryanelli sex scandal in Idukki district, involving a 16-year-old girl who was allegedly raped continuously for 40 days at different places by 42 men. Her abusers reportedly included high profile people, including Congress leader P J Kurien. However, his name was cleared by police investigations. Thereafter, several sex scandals broke out in the state at regular intervals.

Goa’s shame

One of the steamy cases of recent times was that of former Goa tourism minister Micky Pacheco, arrested in mid-2010 for his alleged affair with a young woman who took her own life, ending his run abruptly. Stuck in a divorce tangle with his wife, the former NCP man was already in a live-in relationship with another woman when he first became a minister. He made no effort to cover up his affair, bringing his girlfriend, rather than is wife to the swearing in ceremony at Raj Bhavan.

Everyone knew, but everyone in government pretended it wasn’t happening, till Pacheco moved on to yet another affair. Only this time, the woman in question tried to kill herself.

The death of Nadia Torrado, 28, on May 30, 2010 not only made headlines, but it also sucked Pacheco into a vortex of his own making. Shorn of the trappings of power, the former minister was put through the wringer by the investigative agencies and spent weeks in custody.

Rajasthan saga

The extra marital affairs of political leaders in this desert state remained in the realm of rumours and hearsay till the infamous Bhanwari Devi case hit headlines last year. Former water resources minister Mahipal Maderna is facing trial following allegations that he masterminded the kidnapping and murder of nurse Bhanwari Devi. If  Mahipal was accused of extra marital relations with the woman, another Congress MLA Malkhan Singh is accused of fathering one of Bhanwari’s children.

When Bhanwari blackmailed both these leaders by threatening to go public with the CDs she clandestinely made, they allegedly plotted to eliminate her,
according to CBI which is investigating the case. 

The ruling Congress party suspended both the leaders from the party but they continue to be in the Congress legislature party.

Even while Maderna is cooling his heels in jail, another minister, Ram Lal Jat, resigned following allegations that he hastened the post-mortem of his close aide’s wife, Paras Devi, 34, who died under mysterious circumstances in Bhilwara, his home district. The post-mortem report stated the cause of death as peripheral circulatory failure, hinting at the possibility of poisoning.

The BJP has also its share of ignominy. A party MP Ramswaroop Koli, was caught human trafficking a few years back. The police have reportedly found documents that prove Koli had sent three children and one woman to the US as his family members and had earned Rs 15 lakh in return.

Sleaze factor

Many politicians have had to abandon their political careers or dreams in the heat and dust generated by sex and other scandals. Some had to sweat much but managed to come out of it without much damage. The often overlooked fact in all these cases is that police investigations against politicians allegedly involved in sex scandals have been a farce.

In Karnataka, amidst Opposition demand for lodging a criminal case against the ‘porngate’ ministers, Assembly Speaker K G Bopiah has preferred to order a joint House committee probe by members drawn from the ruling BJP as well as Opposition Congress and JD (S). Scheduled to start on February 14, the probe could well be a Valentine’s gift to the allegedly amorous trio as rival political fronts, though politically exploit such scandals, stop short of punishing the accused.

As a result, politics has ceased to be the proverbial last resort of scoundrels. It is, today, the first preference of individuals with money power to fund not just their own contest, but to finance the entire election expenditure of the political party which is ready to sell them its identity badge.

Unless and until the electors are empowered with the right to recall elected representatives who waste their mandate, sleaze factor in politics is bound to take on uglier forms.

Inputs: A Harikumar in Thiruvananthapuram, Devika Sequeira in Panaji, P Joychen in Jaipur.

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