Like most others, I have been watching the controversy on #CDGate involving Abhishek Manu Singhvi (AMS) emerge in the media over the past few days, with dismay and concern.
Just to get a few things clear, I am no fan of the Congress Party or AMS, and frankly detest his pompous verbal prevarications on the media (possibly the only person I detest even more would be a certain lawyer MP from Ludhiana). However, we need to step back and ask a few questions on this issue.
Twitter and Facebook users have had a field day on this topic and I must say that some comments have been amazingly witty (somehow Congress does bring out the wit in most people). The media, predictably, has been cagey and defensive about this sordid episode (as they are wont to do whenever something to do with the Congress comes out). They have been roundly criticized on social media for the double standards applied on the #porngate controversy as well as the lack of concern for the privacy of Swami Nityanand. A certain Journo who loves saying “Goodnight” on Twitter, agonizingly asking whether AMS is entitled to some privacy, but of course could not look within and ask whether Sami Nityanad was also entitled to it! Indian media justly deserves its online title of being #paidmedia. The Congress parry, predictably, has withdrawn AMS from spokespersonship and is hoping that the issue will die a natural death, preferably with some new scandal coming out focusing on the BJP!
There is a certain poetic charm in seeing an egotistical person stumble and fall. We enjoy it from the sidelines, show our command over “English” and our wit, bash him some more when he is down (I have always thought that the Indian penchant for mob justice is unmatched in the world), and then get on with our lives. The media of course helps in creating this “public memory is short” mythology by moving on to the next “TRP-churner”! Everyone will be happy in a few days, more so AMS, and most of all, that unfortunate woman (whose identity has thankfully not been revealed as yet, and may it remain so).
However, an incident did occur and it does raise some pertinent questions.
If, and as I hope it is true, that this was just a personal dalliance of two married people, and they indulged in consensual sex (actually a quickie), then it’s for them and their families to resolve! We should back off and the incident should be forgotten.
However, and if there is evidence that AMS did promise the lady help in making her a Judge (as rumored), with or without the intention of actually helping her become one, then it is a criminal offense and needs to be investigated further. If he intended to help her become a Judge in return for sexual favors, then he needs to be tried for subverting the judicial selection process. If he had no intention of helping her, then he obtained her consent fraudulently, and therefore needs to be tried for statutory rape (that’s the law) (if a man fraudulently gets a woman’s consent for sex, then even “consensual” sex falls in the category of statutory rape)!
We don’t know what the truth is, but in either case, AMS’ political and most probably his legal careers are almost definitely over. I haven’t seen the “tape” and have no intention to also (find the thought repulsive)! Apparently, AMS and his team have spent the past few days playing “cat-and-mouse” with online vigilantes, in getting the uploaded videos removed. However, there are more than enough links on Twitter and FB that ostensibly connect you to the video (if you want to see it).
My fear is who will raise the demand for the incident to be investigated? Shouldn’t the SC take suo moto notice of this incident?
As long as we keep on getting vicarious pleasure in seeing this detested character’s face being justifiably rubbed into the ground (and it is very tempting I am sure)¸ no one will raise the serious issues surrounding it? The Opposition is shying away from raising the issue (despite them having got egg on their face during the #porngate episode), as maybe they are scared that some similar skeletons may come out their own closets! The public, media, intellectuals need to come out and raise the demand that this needs to be investigated further for any potential wrong-doing.
I once again repeat, if this were a personal dalliance, then it is none of our business (and for god’s sake, we need to scrap the law on adultery being a crime, as half of married Indians could be behind bars then). If there was any wrong-doing, then we need to take action.
This also brings me to another aspect of the changing Indian public discourse. A journo had once told me ages ago, that one of the realities of reporting in India was that Indian public was never interested in the sexual dalliances of its leaders, and didn’t judge them on that basis. Unlike in the US, where a sex scandal can finish a person’s political career (and Bill Clinton was the only exception to this rule), in India, whispers about sexual affairs have never really finished a career (even N D Tiwari’s career is not necessarily over, if Congress can help it). There have been rumors about a variety of our leaders, from across the political spectrum, but the media has refrained from writing about it, not from the goodness of their heart, but because they know that Indian public did not want to know about it.
This is now changing. The TRP-focussed media is not only reporting on such incidents, but also being selective in whom it reports and whom it doesn’t report on. I leave it to the readers to judge whether this is a good or a bad change, but yes, it is a change in our public discourse.
Coming back to AMS, let’s focus if at all there was any wrong-doing, and make him pay, if there was! This should not be a “right-wing” agenda, but an agenda for accountability in public life. The moment you sign up for public life, be very careful, as anything untoward that you do, and if it comes out, can and will be used to judge you! I am sorry, AMS, but in this case, “you have been served notice”! What a fall for a man who comes from as good a pedigree as being L M Singhvi’s son!