Numerous blogs on the internet narrate several unimaginable and intriguing tales of 'illicit-love affairs' featuring various political leaders – both contemporary and those in history. If you chance upon them, you read them, get some free laughs and shrug them off.
But when you happen to be a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), you tend to see things differently, it seems. You stop for a while, diligently take note of it and keep it as an instrument to be used to construct an absurd defence, in case you get attacked for some ‘wrongdoing’ in the future.
In an attempt to defend former AAP minister Sandeep Kumar, who was sacked recently following the release of his alleged sex tape, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh chose to defend Kumar citing a logic that is, to put it mildly, disingenuous.
In a blog published on NDTV, while justifying his former colleague, Ashutosh wrote, "Indian history is full of examples of our leaders and heroes who had lived with their desires beyond social boundaries.”
In a comparison that is outright laughable, he exemplified Mahatma Gandhis’ relationship with Sarla Chaudhary, and Gandhi’s ‘experiment with his desires’ as a defence for the alleged acts of Sandeep Kumar.
Ashutosh wrote, “History is also witness to the fact that top leaders of the Congress in 1910s were worried about Gandhi Ji's relationship with Sarla Chaudhary, who was distantly related to Rabindra Nath Tagore. Gandhi Ji had confessed that Sarla was his spiritual wife. Kasturba Gandhi was very disturbed. C Rajagopalchari and other senior leaders of the party had to intervene. They persuaded, pressured, cajoled Gandhi Ji to leave Sarla. Gandhi Ji, in his later days, slept naked with his two nieces to experiment with celibacy. Pandit Nehru had told him not to do so as the country would rise against him, but Gandhi Ji did not budge."
He also referred to Nehru’s “reported affairs with many female colleagues”, including “Edwina Mountbatten”, and also talked about the 'relationships' of Ram Manohar Lohia, George Fernandes and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
While numerous authors have interpreted the relationship of these leaders in different ways, never has anyone tried to contrast it in the manner that Ashutosh chose to do.
Apparently, ‘Platonic’ is a word that does not exist in Ashutosh’s vocabulary. It seems that he can only paint a relationship between a man and women in one colour, with a single stroke.
While any defence for Gandhi from the onslaught of the AAP leader will only dignify the latter's comments, it is clear that the tools chosen by AAP leaders to defend the indefensible are not carefully chosen and are almost unintelligible.
To help their cause, the AAP leaders need to go beyond the rhetorical insinuations they use to attack their adversaries. There are numerous books penned by several world-acclaimed academics on Gandhi, that elaborately dwell on his ‘sexuality’, which can be of great help to Ashutosh.
David Hardiman, author of Gandhi: In His Time and Ours, while discussing Gandhi’s experiment that earned him strong criticism writes, “Gandhi himself was always in doubt as to his success in achieving full mastery over his passion. He set high standards for himself in this respect, being wrecked by a sense of failure when he had an involuntary discharge of semen in his sleep. He assumed that he had not entirely conquered his desires,"
"This lead to his experiment of 1946-47 when sought to test his celibacy by sleeping with naked and nubile women without feeling any sexual stirrings. He did this at a time of great difficulty for India, when he felt a need to enhance his spiritual powers so as to be equal to the situation. His success in this respect may have given him the moral strength to act with supreme courage as he did in the face of the terrible division and carnage of those years," Hardiman wrote.
Renowned Gandhian scholar Bhikhu Parekh, in his book Colonialism, Tradition, Reform: An Analysis of Gandhi's Political Discourse, echoes a similar view. He writes, “Views on sex and sexuality formed an integral part of his theory of politics. Of his five main tenets for which he is most well-known: swaraj, ahimsa, swadeshi, sarvodaya and satyagraha, each encompassed within it an element of Gandhi’s beliefs on sex. As a political leader and figure of nationalism, Gandhi believed that in order to regenerate India, he, himself, had to become as pure a spirit or as perfect a man as he possibly could and control over his sexuality formed an integral component of this plan”.
But such civility of expressing themselves in a logical and polite way is perhaps a passé for the AAP leadership, something which emanates from the top. And one is further tempted to ask Ashutosh what regeneration plan the act of his minister-colleague was targeted at.
On Thursday, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann unabashedly attacked the media and allegedly provoked his party cadres and volunteers to throw journalists out of his rally, when he was confronted by a question related to Sandeep Kumar’s explicit video.
According to a The Financial Express report, Mann, who was addressing a rally in Bassi Pathana, Fatehgarh Sahib threatened the media persons to leave the venue or be ready to be thrown throw away.
The report further states, “Following which, AAP volunteers tried to snatch the camera and also manhandled journalists, who in order to escape the ordeal had to run out of the venue. The AAP member reportedly arrived three hours late at the venue, after which his twenty-minute speech criticised the media heavily.”
According to a report by The Indian Express following the incident, the Chandigarh Press Club condemned the attack and was planning to lodge an FIR against Mann.
But then unsubstantiated allegations and the use of language unsuitable for leaders has now become a part of AAP's comfort zone. How else, one might ask, can you justify calling the prime minister of the country a ‘psychopath’.