February 21, 2020
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Politics As A Morality Play

Should a political outfit be really bothered about an individual’s choices as long as s/he doesn’t break the law?

Politics As A Morality Play
Illustration by Saahil
Politics As A Morality Play

Though chaotic, cacophonic and treacherous, the Indian political theatre always offered some personal space in the wings for its prime players. Unlike the hypocrisy of the West, here men and women could carry on with their live-in relationships, multiple affairs, separations, divorces and re-marriages without getting impeached by colleagues or booted out by voters or getting unduly apprehensive about peeping Toms. The private lives of even prime ministers were just that—private lives. But the modern gadgetry for spying and narcissism is changing it all. Now, a grainy video clip, however nauseating, can send a minister home and cause an electoral debacle. As if all we needed ever was a video clip to prove a politico’s ‘misdemeanour’. As if before the advent of the camera phone, they were all experimenting with truth, celibacy and poverty. This is probably that moment when an entire society is slipping into an abyss of irrecoverable duplicity. And the moral grandstanding of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) has contributed immensely to the speedy spiral to political doom for many leaders, some its own.

Should a political outfit be really bothered about an individual’s choices as long as s/he doesn’t break the law? The moment an organisation prescribes a moral code of conduct for its own volunteers, it is in effect setting a benchmark for the rest of the society as well, aiming to set the organisation holier than the rest of its rivals. Well, any moral code only creates violators who want to hide their weaker self. It is best to stick to the penal code and the criminal procedure code instead of creating a separate set of rites and rules for every organisation, political or otherwise. Unfortunately, it is always easier to wear a Gandhi cap than be Gandhi-like. Sure, the Congress party had institutionalised the hypocrisy of the Gandhi cap even during the national movement. Yet, it had never asked any Congressman to be a saint. The Grand Old Party always reflected the vices, weaknesses and failings of an overtly ambitious Indian. So no leader was ever castigated for carnal transgressions. In fact, not long ago, one of its top leaders quietly married his girlfriend after a few intimate photographs popped up in the media, while another was ‘rested’ after a mouthful of allegations of sexual hyperactivity were bandied about.

If at all there ought to be a code of conduct, it should be on two simple principles: don’t record selfies of your steamy sexual encounters within or outside marriage; and don’t let former journalists who confuse Mohandas Gandhi with Sandeep Kumar defend your party. Both are dangerous. Selfies have a life of their own and they invariably end up on some pornographic site, which is more public than the Ramlila Maidan; might as well call the neighbourhood over for the shoot or do it on Facebook Live. Worse, what was consensual could even become a crime when the selfie suddenly transforms itself into a piece of “evidence” to prove rape. If you can’t keep your hands in your pocket, at least keep your phone in your pocket.

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