Kerala’s WhatsAppgate, breadcrumbing & JOMO
Former education minister K T Jaleel had landed in soup over his chats with the UAE consul general.
CHENNAI: It’s sleaze season in Kerala politics. Chief Minister Pinaryai Vijayan’s additional private secretary CM Raveendran’s not-so-official messages to Swapna Suresh have added spice to the Life Mission scam that’s been haunting the ruling party for two years.
Earlier, the Enforcement Directorate took Pinarayi’s former principal secretary, M Sivasankar, into custody. His dangerous WhatsApp liaisons with Swapna, who is a key accused in the ‘diplomatic’ gold smuggling case and Life Mission scam, also had created quite a stir. More sensational leaks followed on Wednesday, even as his bail plea was being heard by a special court.
Raveendran, meanwhile, refused to turn up for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate a couple of days ago. And the Central agency is set to summon him again. Unofficial ‘chats’ have proven to be quite a headache for the government. Former education minister K T Jaleel had landed in soup over his chats with the UAE consul general.
Subsequently, Swapna had accused former Speaker PSreeramakrishnan, former Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, and former finance minister Thomas Isaac of sending her amorous or coquettish messages. All three trashed the allegations. However, none has gone ahead with Swapna’s dare to sue her for defamation.
With the chief minister’s trusted lieutenants and CPM bigwigs getting embroiled in multiple ‘texting’ controversies, could one say Kerala is witnessing India’s first major WhatsAppgate or chatgate?
For the uninitiated, the suffix ‘gate’ for scandals traces back to a beautiful, curvy building on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.
The Watergate scandal rocked the US in the 1970s. It involved the unscrupulous activities of former American president Richard Nixon’s administration, including the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. Nixon quit in August 1974.
“By the time of Nixon’s resignation, the use of –gate as a somewhat mocking way to suffix the names of scandals (political or otherwise) had already taken hold in the American media and continued throughout the decade,” notes the Merriam-Webster dictionary in an article titled ‘A suffix that stinks of corruption’.
Let’s look at some examples.
The 1980 US presidential election saw ‘Debategate’, as the Ronald Reagan campaign was accused of illicitly accessing a copy of President Jimmy Carter’s briefing book for an upcoming debate.Then came the Irangate or ‘Iran-Contra Affair’ in the mid-80s. Senior officials in the Reagan administration were accused of secretly selling arms to Iran, which was facing sanctions at that time and using the proceeds to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
In the 1990s, Chinagate struck the Clinton administration. It involved allegations that Chinese officials had funnelled illegal campaign donations to the Democratic Party. Clinton faced Travelgate, too. Controversy erupted over his administration firing seven employees of the White House travel office, and awarding a travel contract to a “Clinton friend”.
More recently, in 2016, the US presidential election saw Pizzagate – a “conspiracy theory” that alleged Democrat officials were involved in a child sex trafficking ring operating out of a pizza restaurant in Washington.
Then came the Russiagate which allegations over the Trump campaign colluding with Russia during the 2016 election.
And then, of course, there is Bill Gates. Sorry for the PJ. India, too, has had its own share of ‘-gates’. The Boforsgate, which broke in the late 1980s, involved allegations of corruption in the purchase of Bofors howitzers from the Swedish arms manufacturer, Bofors.
In 2010, Radiagate hogged headlines with audio tapes of a lobbyist involved in the 2G spectrum scam, Nira Radia, were leaked. In 2012, Coalgate saw allegations over the allocation of coal blocks to private companies without transparent bidding processes. Choppergate in the same year involved allegations of corruption in the purchase of helicopters from the Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland.
Coming back to Kerala, while the chatgate is set to dramatically unspool in the run-up to the 2024 general elections, the takeaway for the hapless hoi polloi is “Beware of WhatsApp”. For, a message that you send today could come back to bite you tomorrow.
“For every scandal, it seems, there will always be a gate,” says Merriam-Webster. “Remember to close it on your way out.” Okay, time for me to go chalk out a digital detox plan. Wish you a scandal-free week ahead! Leaving you with online chat lingo that the Luddite in me discovered recently Catfish - Someone who creates a fake online persona to deceive others.
Ghosting - Ending a relationship abruptly and without explanation.
DTR - “Define the relationship,” usually used to ask where a relationship is going.
FWB - “Friends with benefits,” a non-exclusive sexual relationship between friends.
Cuffing season - The time of year, usually in the fall and winter, when people seek out relationships to “cuff” themselves for warmth.
Thirsty - Desperate for attention or validation.
Swiping - The act of quickly scrolling through potential matches on a dating app.
Breadcrumbing - Leading someone on with flirtatious messages, but without any intention of pursuing a relationship.
Submarining - Disappearing from someone’s life without explanation, and then resurfacing later as if nothing happened.
Benching - Keeping someone on the back burner as a potential romantic option, but not actively pursuing a relationship.
Ghostbusting - Confronting someone who has ghosted you, in an attempt to get closure.
Slide into DMs - Sending someone a flirty or suggestive message in their direct messages on social media.
Throuple - A romantic relationship between three people.
Polyamory - The practice of having multiple romantic partners, with the knowledge and consent of all parties involved.
IRL - ‘In real life,’ used to distinguish online interactions from face-to-face meetings.
ROFL - Rolling on the floor laughing
LDR - ‘Long distance relationship’ a romantic relationship between people who live far apart.
TMI - ‘Too much information’, used to indicate that someone has shared something overly personal or intimate
WYD - ‘What you doing?’ used as a casual greeting or to start a conversation.
Swolemate - A romantic partner who shares a passion for fitness and working out.
Thirst trap - A social media post intended to get attention or validation.
Snack - A good-looking person who is attractive but not considered a full meal.
Netflix and chill - A euphemism for inviting someone over for a casual hookup.
FOMO - “Fear of missing out,” used to describe the anxiety of feeling left out
JOMO - “Joy of missing out,” used to describe the pleasure of opting out of social events and enjoying alone time.