CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes from Bangalore: It seems that former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is a much harried man these days.
A local newspaper reports that a “mystery woman” has been calling his mobile phone and showering a barrage of abuse.
“About 10 months ago, a girl called me up. Initially she narrated her woes. Later she started hounding me and also hurled abuses, the nature of which I can’t share. She used to make calls at 3 am and even at 4 am.”
The report also says, an embarrassed Kumaraswamy has discreetly sought the help of the city cops to identify the “stalker”.
Aside from the female angle, there is something delectable about this story: a powerful man being helpless as the rest of humankind in the face of anonymous phone calls; the sight of an honourable member of Parliament fighting to save his honour in the eyes of the world.
For, there have been other mornings, when newspapers have spiced up my idli-sambar by candidly highlighting the former Chief Minister’s affections for the actress Radhika, but HDK could barely be bothered.
When the two appeared together at a religious ceremony—the Ashta Pavithra Nagamandalotsava (in picture)—organised by the actress’s family near Mangalore recently, still no response.
Unlike his father H.D. Deve Gowda, whose obsessive preoccupation with politics never gave him time for anything else, HDK, a film producer before he took the plunge in politics, seems to bring in a range of flavours where the real and reel overlap.
So, you wonder: is HDK a changed man?
If so, who’s behind the change?
For historical reasons, our English broadsheets have been reluctant to cater to the base instincts of their readers. But with the rise of other unconventional, bolder, faster channels of information, repackaging of news has become the norm.
Nothing is flippant or frivolous any more.
Anything goes in the name of giving the reader what he wants.
And with the private lives of our public figures becoming increasingly, nonchalantly, arrogantly colourful, everything goes to grab a few extra eyeballs.
For instance in 2007, there was the curious case of M.P. Renukacharya, a married BJP legislator, whose romantic liaison with “nurse” Jayalakshmi (in picture) was the defining image of the day. Charges, counter-charges and intimate photographs of the MLA smooching the woman provided grist for a sensation-starved media.
At one point, it appeared as if this lusty controversy would sink the JD(S)- BJP boat. It was believed that JD (S) would ride on the skirts of this affair and accuse the BJP of impropriety and refuse to transfer power to its alliance partner as previously agreed.
Renukacharya is now among the BJP MLAs gunning for the head of chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.
The amorous dalliances of Karnataka’s politicians have enlivened many living room gossip sessions but rarely so publicly.
A knowledgeable reporter-friend, considered an “authority” on the ‘apolitical inclinations’ of the State’s leading lights, used to be a mandatory inclusion in most party guest lists. A couple of gin-tonic shots and the skeletons start tumbling out of the cupboards.
There is no such use, it seems, for such inside knowledge. It’s all out in the open.
In recent times, chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s “proclivities” have been blissfully up for public scrutiny. There are not-so-subtle hints in news reports on the “great personal rapport” he shares with a lady colleague in his cabinet.
Since there is only one woman in the BJP team, there is little left to the imagination.
There are accusations of favoritism, nepotism and what not.
This “friendship” has resulted in party loyalists feeling slighted and sidelined. They seem to be getting more brazen. The political storm taking shape in the firmament could well swirl into the Chief Minister’s bedroom if he doesn’t watch out.
But to his credit Yediyurappa has remained unflappable not bothering to react on the subject. He has made every effort to project his cabinet colleague as an invaluable ally in his government’s development agenda. Moreover, the BJP’s Lok Sabha showing has only infused him with more ‘vigour and vitality’, if nothing else.
In the past, a number of Karnataka chief ministers have courted trouble but away from the gaze of 24×7 newshounds.
Some like the irrepressible J.H.Patel, who unabashedly proclaimed his weakness for wine and women, were unmindful and dismissive of critics. His escapades with a string of women admirers in the most unlikeliest of places was a welcome diversion in a shifty political environment thick with dissidence and intrigues.
Patel was nonchalant and his responses, while staving off nosey, cynical newsmen, was often replete with ribaldry and innuendoes. A film star-politician was his constant and willing cohort.
And then came S.M. Krishna, a natural charmer.
Unlike his flighty predecessor, Krishna was measured in his language and seldom erratic in behavior. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of snide comments on his penchant for the good things.
Rumours were rife about his West End-peccadilloes and there was loose corridor talk on his association with a minister-colleague, but nothing sensational unlike J.H.Patel.
But last year, as Governor of Maharashtra, he found himself in an embarrassing spot, when his former ministerial colleague H.Vishwanath made a reference to the alleged affair that Krishna had had with the popular actress Saroja Devi (in picture, left) in his book.
Vishwanath said that Krishna had hoped to field his “old flame” from the Mandya Lok Sabha seat, and in that context recounted a conversation where Krishna had maintained:
The media went on an overdrive blowing this up and quite ridiculously predicting an ignominious end to Krishna’s political career.
Instead, what the book resulted in was a minor law and order problem and B.Saroja Devi pronouncing that God would punish Vishwanath for his uncharitable comments.
Ramakrishna Hegde as Chief Minister was a lethal combination of the urbane and the earthy. His range of attractive friends included dancers, film stars, writers, TV newsreaders and many more.
Truly charismatic, Hegde’s glazed eyes twinkled like smoldering stars when he was engaged in an intense conversation. Puckering his thick-set lips and running his tongue over them, he would hold forth endlessly on a range of topics.
I have known female-journalists eager and excited on receiving confirmation for a personal pow-wow with Hegde.
Sitting in the first floor study of his house, I have seen the overpowering effect he has had on some of my friends. He would graciously pick up the gleaming tea silver, drop sugar cubes and after gently stirring the concoction, hand over the cup, all along maintaining eye contact and a warm conversation.
There was talk of how in a moment of exuberance, he had gifted away a patch of land to Protima Bedi for her dance school. In later years, Hegde’s more serious and enduring relationship was with dancer Prathiba Prahalad (in picture, centre), who at present lives in New Delhi with her two children.
During the hey-day, there were tumultuous moments in the family drama that the media picked up in bits and pieces. Hegde’s admirers spoke of his legendary prowess and felicity with the fairer sex, age notwithstanding … and the stories went on.
In the 1980s there was the dynamic Chief Minister R. Gundu Rao. His fascination for dancer Manju Bhargavi (in picture), the heroine from Shankarabharanam,was well known.
Like the infamous Nero, the day a major circus tragedy took place in Bangalore, a besotted Gundu Rao was watching a Manju Bhargavi dance recital, a fact he confirmed later.
Much has been written on the inextricability of sex and politics. However, the natural predisposition of a man in power is to sin, that is probably the simple and irrefutable truth of life.
Former US President Jimmy Carter once said:
“I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.”
Also read: Corruption OK. Massacres OK. Romance not OK?