Private lives of public figures?
The sting operation by an Andhra TV channel which resulted in the resignation of the state Governor and veteran politician Narain Dutt Tewari goes on to indicate that those in public life in future will have to be extremely careful about what they do in private.
Tewari has denied any wrong doing and has claimed that he was a victim of a frameup. He has also said that he was not giving up on active politics. However, the perception about the incident is contrary to the senior leader’s assertions and he will not find it easy to continue in public life especially because his own party may not like to field him for any position in the future. There have virtually been very few instances when politicians in India have had to quit on account of their relationships or escapades. Unlike the West where a sex scandal can ruin the chances of a politician to assume a high office, no such thing has existed in this country.
The Perfumo affair involving Christine Keeler, Dr Ward and some others had brought down the British government of Harold Macmillan in the early sixties. Bill Clinton got into deep trouble over his numerous involvements and the Monica Lewinsky affair continues to haunt him to this day. The Italian Prime Minister has similarly suffered a huge setback because of his sexual involvement with so many women. Now Tiger Woods, arguably the best athlete of the decade is facing the music for his alleged relationships with a whole lot of women.
But In India, for some odd reasons, personal lives of so many top politicians have always remained out of media’s purview in what is a self regulated omission of such news. It is only now that Jawaharlal Nehru’s extreme fondness for Lady Edwina Mountbatten is figuring in a big way in newspapers, magazines and books. There was a time when some tabloids would occasionally carry something on Krishna Menon’s numerous encounters in the early sixties and late fifties. But very few would ever mention for instance the affair of someone like Nasikrao Tirupude, the Vidhraba strongman with an influential lady from Western India which cost him his minister ship during the tenure of Y.B.Chavan as Maharashtra Chief Minister.
A number of top leaders led very colourful lives and the long list includes a couple of former Prime Ministers. Even though what these dignitaries have been doing in private, has not been reflected in the media. This has led to many asking the question whether there exists an unwritten code between the media and the politicians that private matters will always be treated as private. Or is it because of our double standards and hypocrisy?
Things could change once Tabloid type journalism and the Paparazzi find a regular place in our scheme of things. So far Tabloids concentrate only on film stars and the various flings they have but the scope of their coverage could enlarge.
In case of Tewari, perhaps the senior most Indian politician on scene today, allegations of sexual misconduct have been made even in the past.
There is also a case pending in the High Court where a 29 year old has claimed that the veteran politician was his biological father. While it is for the courts to decide what are the merits of the claim, Tewari is certainly on the mat after the latest expose on a TV Channel. It is still not clear whether the man in the footage is actually Tewari but the Congress High Command sensing that this could further aggravate the boiling atmosphere in Andhra, took no time in advising him to quit. Tewari, an astute politician cited his ill health while giving up his post.
Sting operations have become a very common these days and even in the BJP, intra party rivalries are sought to be settled by circulating CDs or pictures of their leaders. Remember how Sanjay Joshi was made to step aside from his position and how some others were threatened with exposure if they did not quit.
I feel that politicians and public figures need to be very careful in future. A section of the media in total disregard of the earlier unwritten understanding may not hesitate in focusing on their personal lives. Tewari at a ripe old age has had to bow out of public life in the most unceremonious manner. The short point is that there are Lessons to be learnt from this episode.