Corruption OK. Massacres OK. Romance not OK?

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Like a kaleidoscope, you can view the “revelation” of the half-century-old S.M. KrishnaB. Saroja Devi fling, and the spat at the book release in Mysore yesterday, any which way you like, and it will still make a lot of sense.

# Those who like media will say the messenger is being shot as usual. Those who dislike the media will see it (as Gagan K. already has) as a sign of the media going haywire in the mad quest for eyeballs and readers.

# Those who like Krishna will see it as an attempt to derail his reentry into Karnataka politics. Those who dislike him will see it as proof, full and final, that the man was up to no good even if it was 55 years ago.

# Those who like H. Vishwanath will see it as an attempt to prevent him from telling the truth. Those who dislike him will see it as a pre-poll stunt; just what the doctor ordered to boot him out of the Congress.

# Those who like the rich and powerful will see it as an attempt to tar brush them as being weak in the loins. Those dislike them will see it as a sign of how trophy wives and girlfriends have become an accepted norm.

# Those who like freedom of speech will see it as proof of how intolerant we are becoming as a nation. Those who dislike others using their freedom will say this is what happens if there is too much freedom.

In a way, each of those points of view, and possibly many more, are correct. But here’s a contrarian view worth pondering: is it just possible that the much reviled Janata Dal (Secular) is more tolerant of scrutiny and criticism than the much revered Indian National Congress?

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To understand the irony, compare the reaction to the Krishna-Saroja Devi “romance” being made public with the reaction to the dalliance of H.D. Kumaraswamy with movie star Radhika being made public.

H. Vishwanath says he himself had the conversation with Krishna four years ago. Krishna’s wife Prema, and his brother S.M. Shankar, have both confirmed that there was talk of a marriage proposal for Krishna with Saroja Devi 55 years ago. Saroja Devi herself does not deny the affair. And Krishna has threatened to sue Mid-Day for the morphed photograph not the story.

In other words, there is more than a grain of truth to the story.

Yet, Congressmen owing allegiance to Krishna go on the offensive, without reading the book, without understanding the context, without verifying its veracity, and stall its release. Why is it so difficult to swallow a grain of truth for Krishna’s henchmen like D.K. Shiva Kumar and D. Made Gowda, when the chief players in the drama, Krishna included, are comfortable with it?

And this in a party that makes no effort to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru‘s dalliance with Edwina Mountbatten.

On the other hand, look at l’affaire Kumaraswamy-Radhika.

Kumaraswamy, at 48, is a full 28 years younger than Krishna. Unlike Krishna, HDK’s political future is ahead of him. For the better part of the last two years and more, there has been all manner of speculation in the Kannada weekly tabloids of his proximity to Radhika, the daughter of a Mangalore kabab-maker who acted in a few Kannada and Tamil films.

Did HDK buy her a house worth Rs 12 crore in Dollar Colony? Was he “relaxing” in the house, as chief minister, just before it was raided by income-tax men? Did he frequent her father’s house in Katriguppe? Did she get the Chamuni Hill temple manager transferred using her political connections? Did he make a midnight trip to a Mangalore hospital to call on her? Was she pregnant then? Has she given birth to a son in London?

These and other unsubstantiated tidbits have been merrily been thrown by a salivating media, including churumuri, even though Kumaraswamy has much more to lose by the negative publicity than Krishna. Yet, there has been no frenzied reaction from HDK or his JDS supporters. No blocking of roads, no throwing of flower pots, no manhandling.

What little protest has come has come via a series of defamation case filed by supporters of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda at the film “Mukhya Mantri I love you‘ being made by Hi! Bangalore editor Ravi Belagere. There was a dharna at the offices of the tabloid, but none of the vandalism and hooliganism of the Congress.

What does it mean?

That Krishna’s supporters are more careful at guarding his image and perception than HDK’s? That HDK has given up hope of being chief minister again and doesn’t care about voters seeing him as being bigamous? That, for all their rough and tough ways, the JDS men are more open, democratic and tolerant?

Or is this a “class” thing?

Here’s an even bigger irony: Congressmen aren’t overly concerned about their leaders being held guilty of taking part in massacres and killings and riots; they are not bothered about their leaders charged of corruption, of hobnobbing with the underworld, of taking cash from counterfeiters.

But somehow, a very normal, natural romance with a member of the opposite sex, one which both parties grudgingly admit, even if it was 55 years ago, gets them all hot under the collar. Why?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News