Do you think our politicians have grown sillier than they seemed before? Consider the recent controversies: a chief minister who dozes off when an important debate on sexual offences is going on, a politician who attempts to stuff a roti into the mouth of a person who is observing a fast, a politician who thinks Sania Mirza is a Pakistani, or a health minister who thinks sex education is not good for our children. In each of these cases, the media has gone apoplectic and has given blow by blow accounts. One explanation is that the silly season is upon us. But that doesn’t explain it satisfactorily. We expect our politicians to fix our problems, but what we see is the opposite.
We tend to doze off during lengthy exposition of arcane subjects and that is understandable, but Siddaramaiah sleeping like some Kumbhakarna in the legislative assembly during discussion on a subject his whole state is angry about is a good media opportunity to show just how engaged he remains as the state’s number one politician. This reporter has seen him dozing off even in the august company of no less a person than Rahul Gandhi—but alert readers may quickly point out that even Rahul Gandhi was spotted snoozing during a parliamentary debate on price rise, his eyes closed, head tilted to the right. The Congress clarified he had not been sleeping but listening to the debate with his eyes closed, and to be fair to Rahul no report even suggested that he had contributed to the debate by letting off a couple of gentle snores which is more than what some people have come to expect from him during debates. So officially, the jury is still out on whether the Congress was sleeping while prices were rising. More pertinently, what came as salt being rubbed on the wound was Siddaramaiah’s retort to the media: “Except that (rape), don’t you have any other issues? Is this the only news you have?”
It is a good question. Not a day goes by without the media reporting some shocking case of rape. Except for the business pages and possibly the sports pages, we come across rape stories in most other pages, tucked away in some corner or prominently displayed. On most days, there are more than one story. In Bangalore, there had been an incident of a young girl being raped and the police trying to lessen the charge; there was an incident of a little girl of six who was abused brutally, apparently by a skating instructor. Some months ago, we read the story of a policeman of the rank of ADGP who took unsolicited pictures on his mobile phone of women in a restaurant. In Chennai, there was news of a father raping his daughter, abetted by his son. What is our world coming to?
Is it more unsafe than it was a couple of decades ago? Or is it just that the media is reporting more of it than before? I remember being shocked once to read this statistic: there is a rape every nine minutes in the US. This was many years ago. But for Siddaramaiah at least things are looking up. This is what we reported a couple of days ago: “On Thursday, Siddaramaiah surprised everyone by being alert for a full four hours during the Council session. He attributed his alertness to yoga and pranayama sessions in the morning.” Good news for Karnataka, I guess.
Sudarshan is the author of Anatomy of an Abduction: How the Indian Hostages in Iraq Were Freed