A dance recital by the former Telugu film actress turned Samajawadi Party MP, Jaya Prada, over the weekend has got the Congress all hot and het up in Uttar Pradesh.
Should an honourable Member of Parliament be going around entertaining the masses in itsy-bitsy clothes? Is this why the people elected her? Isn’t she undermining the stature of the Temple of our Democracy? Should a State government be employing her services and paying her through the nose when there are other more deserving dancers? These are some of the questions that the Congress in UP, led by its MP from Aligarh, has lobbed in the air.
This is not the first time that Jaya Prada’s dance has run into trouble. A recital earlier, with the Taj Mahal forming the backdrop, too had prompted the same questions, but the latest performance gains an additional edge because of the ensuing elections in India’s largest State. And the Congress , as is obvious, will clearly go to any lengths to put the SP in some discomfort.
The Congress’ opposition to the dance recital prompts a more fundamental question: just what is the role “We, the People” expect our MPs to play?
They go to Parliament only for a few days of the year. What should they be doing the rest of the time, besides receiving petitions, cutting ribbons, sitting on the dais, and going abroad on study trips? Should an MP give up all her interests upon taking oath and not indulge any extra-curricular activity? Should an MP become a hermit?
But it is the implicit sexism in the rant against Jaya Prada that we should sit up and take note. The Congress has no problem with a Navjot Sidhu making a fool of himself on television every night. The Congress has no problem with a Vijay Mallya or Rahul Bajaj feathering their business nests even after being elected. Somehow, Jaya Prada (and Hema Malini on an earlier occasion) gets its goat. Why?
There is an additional element of stereotyping. The Congress had no trouble with Lata Mangeshkar singing while being an MP. The Congress had no trouble with M.F. Husain painting while being an MP. The Congress has no trouble with M.A.M. Ramaswamy racing his horses while being an MP. Or with Shatrughan Sinha acting. Somehow, it just doesn’t like women MPs dancing. Why?
At least Jaya Prada was doing Bharatanatyam. What would have been her fate at the hands of the self-appointed guardians of “Indian culture” if she were doing a cabaret?