The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is expected to be a major player in next year’s Punjab, Goa and Gujarat Assembly elections, is facing embarrassing moments on its home turf in the national capital. One of its prominent MLAs and ministers, Sandeep Kumar was sacked by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after a video and some still photographs featuring him and at least two different women surfaced in the media and the WhatsApp circuit earlier in the week. Sandeep was literally caught with his pants down and Kejriwal swung into damage control by giving him the marching orders. Sandeep is the third minister in the AAP government who has had to leave under a shadow and the latest episode has to an extent dented AAP’s image to a definite degree. The question that arises following the latest episode focuses attention on the supposedly clandestine sex lives of public figures and how certain indiscretions can ruin both reputations and governments in power.
In the early 1960s, when the Christine Keeler scandal also known as the Profumo affair rocked the political circles of United Kingdom, the government collapsed. The incident revolved around British security and how it had been compromised since Keeler was sleeping around with powerful British politicians as well as foreigners perceived to be Soviet spies. John Profumo, who was the War Minister in the Harold Macmillan government, confessed having had a brief sexual liaison with Keeler, a show girl and a model, after being introduced to her by the society osteopath Stephen Ward. Keeler had as well been involved with a Soviet diplomat, naval attaché Yevgeni Ivanov and once the news broke about her being a link between the British government and a Soviet spy, all hell broke loose. The issue was picked up by the opposition in the Cold War era and resulted in Dr Ward committing suicide, he being the common link. The Macmillan government also became a political casualty post this incident.
There are other instances in history too. President Sukarno of Indonesia was known for his glad eye. He once visited Moscow and according to grapevine was entertained by Russian girls. At the airport shortly before his departure, Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev, who was trying to get Sukarno on his side, presented him with a photo album portraying him in various positions with certain girls. Unruffled by the attempt to blackmail him into submission, Sukarno told him curtly to post the album to his residence in Indonesia.
Both the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert, had an intensely close liaison with Hollywood bombshell Marilyn Monroe. The US secret service was in full knowhow of this scandalous affair and kept the matter confidential long after the brothers were assassinated in the 1960s. The stories pertaining to JFK later tumbled out into the public domain and are part of the White House folklore.
Similarly, President Bill Clinton’s encounter with Monica Lewinsky, an intern in the White House is a documented fact. The issue had blown out of proportion and a defensive Clinton initially tried to deny the affair, but after immense public pressure finally admitted to his indiscretion. The matter continues to be raised in the political arena where the former President’s wife Hillary is seeking to become the US head of government in the closely fought November elections this year.
Back home, there have been stories of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru having a close relationship with Lady Edwina Mountbatten, wife of India’s last viceroy. There have been also unconfirmed reports of Pandit Nehru having affairs with a host of women including a high profile socialite of the 1950s and 1960s. All this added to the aura Mr Nehru built around himself. Rajiv Gandhi died very young, but his tenure was not free from reports linking him to different women, though nothing was ever confirmed or substantiated. There were even stories about Atal Behari Vajpayee as well which have done the rounds and other than providing salacious gossip have not amounted to anything more.
In the late 1970s, when Babu Jagjivan Ram was emerging as an alternative Prime Minister to Morarji Desai, a major sex scandal broke out in the political set-up. Polaroid photographs of his son Suresh Ram with a woman emerged in the political space after they were discovered in Ram’s car by political activists K.C. Tyagi and Om Pal Singh, at that time supporters of Chaudhury Charan Singh, who was also in the contention. The photographs taken in the Western Court ended Jagjivan Ram’s prime ministerial ambitions. To add insult to injury, the whole set was published in the Surya magazine, at that point edited by the late Sanjay Gandhi’s wife Maneka Gandhi.
In the last few years, there were CDs of a prominent Congress leader along with that of a beautiful woman lawyer aspiring to be a judge, which was in circulation for some time, threatened to end his political career. There was another CD of a well known Haryana politician with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. The matter was given a quiet burial. In Rajasthan, the abduction and murder of Bhanwari Devi, an ambitious midwife led to the arrest of powerful politicians in the government.
Therefore, Sandeep Kumar’s tapes have served as a huge setback for the AAP government. It will take Kejriwal’s vast political acumen to get his party out of this mess. Between us.