Raghavji’s arrest, expulsion and the public opinion shows that Madhya Pradesh will tolerate almost anything but homosexuality.
The first weekend of July was a crazy one for cops and journalists in Bhopal. On Friday morning, July 5, a man walks in to Habibganj Police Station to complain that he has been sexually exploited by Madhya Pradesh’s finance minister Raghavji for more than three years. By noon, the minister resigns and by lunch time, people were viewing a video on their mobiles, allegedly depicting the minister having sex with a man in his living room — below a group photo of the Rajya Sabha.
The following day, it continues to rain cats, dogs and CDs. A member of the ruling BJP, Shiv Shankar Pateriya, reveals CDs of more recordings of the minister allegedly having sex with a man. Pateriya is suspended by his party in the evening. As the Saturday sun sets behind the dark clouds, a turbaned peasant accompanied by others, turns up at the police station. The peasant — Bhujbal Dangi from Vidisha — says he was the father of the man who claimed to have been sexually abused by the minister. He complains that his son had been missing for four years.
On Sunday, July 7— as the ex-minister publicly celebrated his 79th birthday in his hometown Vidisha — the plaintiff, whom the police couldn't find, turns up at the bungalow Ajay Singh, the leader of opposition in the state’s legislature. Later in the day, the police register a first information report and the minister was expelled from his party. That night, the police lose track of him as he drove from his constituency to the state capital.
A couple of days later, the minister is arrested from a locked apartment. The policemen who arrested him said they found him staring at the ceiling while his wife chanted with prayer beads.
It is not the first time that a politician has been accused of misusing his office for sexual favours in Madhya Pradesh. Another minister Ajay Vishnoi and BJP’s state general secretary Arvind Menon are being probed for similar charges. Their alleged sexual encounters are heterosexual unlike Raghavji’s which are homosexual.
On July 8, at the office on a prominent Congressman, I sat with party hang-arounds and journalists watching TV as it rained outside. Congress spokesman Mukesh Nayak was on a tirade on multiple TV channels saying, “On one side the chief minister talks about encouraging the youth into sports, on the other his minister pulls down their pants.” Nayak repeated the “pulls down their pants” bit, to every TV camera he found.
And the sniggers continued from everyone who watched him, including the anchors. The joke never got old. Journalists and politicians joked on and off camera that Madhya Pradesh, which has topped the rape charts in the country for several years, is now not even safe for men.
The minister’s resignation and expulsion reflected the seriousness his party attached to his crime. In the past, a minister has been allowed to hold is portfolio, even behind bars.
Here Raghavji has been expelled from his party before being convicted. A newspaper reporter, who visited Vidisha, found people ashamed to talk about their MLA. While most men in the marketplace had his alleged buggery video on their phones, they told the reporter that they considered him unclean and shameless.
Senior police officials told this blogger that they did not offer him tea as “he may be diseased.” Somehow, heterosexual affairs do not attract such strong comments from the electorate or law enforcers. A police officer who escorted the minister to court casually remarked, “Couldn’t he have hired prostitutes to satisfy his lust in his old age.”
For many provincial politicians, their multiple sexual partners are a matter of pride — a fact they flaunt as proof of their manhood. Their party workers sometimes go to great lengths to ensure that their leaders enjoy sexual pleasures, outside marriage, during official tours. It is enough to drop the name of a philandering politician in his party office to get a flood of proud narrations of his sexual misadventures.
The outrage over Raghavji’s alleged crimes in Madhya Pradesh actually display prudishness and sexism, rather than morality or righteousness.