Person of the week

The Lover Who Admitted His Love

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Digvijaya Singh’s contemporaries cry ‘conspiracy’ when news surfaces of their relationships. You’ve got to hand it to him for his openness
When a scandal about a politician’s personal life becomes public, there are but a few set standard responses. ‘Doctored tape’ is one. ‘Political conspiracy’ is another favourite. The then 84-year-old Andhra Pradesh Governor ND Tiwari when caught in a scandal over a tape featuring him in an orgy with three women was more specific. He said he was being targetted in a political conspiracy over the Telangana issue, although he did not explain how exactly the demand for a separate state was related to it.

Abhishek Manu Sanghvi of the Congress, who also featured on a sex tape, chose the former reason. He called it ‘forged, concocted, morphed and fabricated’. And Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who was going through a divorce took to Twitter to deny the gossip that he was having an affair with a television anchor. It is always thought more prudent to deny or blame mischief-mongers with a political agenda, than to admit and question if there is anything wrong in it.

Consider then what Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh did. When the recent video with private photographs of the widowed 67-year-old leader with a married television journalist in her early forties was being shared on social media websites, the leader admitted to it. Not in some private chat or through a minion. But on Twitter. In one tweet, he wrote, ‘I have no hesitation in accepting my relationship with Amrita Rai. She and her husband have already filed a mutual consent divorce case.’ And in the second, ‘Once that is decided we would formalise it. But I do condemn encroachment [on] our private life’. This was followed by tweets from the woman concerned, admitting her relationship with Singh, and claiming that her computer and emails were hacked into. Her husband also put up a Facebook update saying his wife and he are going through a divorce and had separated for some time now.

Singh’s first wife, with whom he had five children, passed away last year. The journalist in question, Amrita Rai, is much younger than him and married to a professor. There is nothing wrong about a relationship between two consenting adults, even if one or both is married. But such finer points are often lost on the public at large. With the right spin, it could be made to appear that Singh is a lecherous old man using his influence to break up a home. This was already in evidence when his two tweets were retweeted thousands of times, often accompanied with potshots of the perceived evidence of an old man’s lust. He became a trending subject on Twitter soon. And newspapers and websites started digging up unnamed sources to report that Singh’s children are averse to his father’s new sweetheart, and Rai’s husband, Anand Pradhan, is a member of Singh’s political foe, the Aam Aadmi Party.

Singh has himself been very unsparing of others’ follies. In the recent past, he has constantly picked on Narendra Modi for not owning up to his wife. It was thus unlikely that the BJP would let an opportunity like this pass by. BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi has said that instead of preaching morality to others, Digvijaya Singh should look within himself to see if he practices what he preaches, and suggested that perhaps Pradhan could file a case of adultery.

Veteran politican that he is, Singh would have expected all this. But you have got to say, whatever the reason may be—the macho bravado of new love or a well-thought out response—it takes guts to admit a relationship as openly as he has.