AAP spokesperson Ashutosh's column for NDTV.com leads to controversy

In a column for the television channel’s website, Ashutosh had stated that the Indian society never objected to what political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and George Fernandes did in their private lives. His comments came in the backdrop of a controversy surrounding expelled minister Sandeep Kumar

e4m by Saif Ahmad Khan
Published: Sep 6, 2016 9:00 AM  | 3 min read
AAP spokesperson Ashutosh's column for NDTV.com leads to controversy

A column written by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spokesperson Ashutosh has landed him in trouble with both the Congress and BJP accusing him of crossing the line. Writing for NDTV, Ashutosh had largely come out in support of Sandeep Kumar who was recently sacked from Delhi cabinet by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal following the telecast of an alleged sex video.

“This video exposes the hypocrisy of the society and hollowness of the media. How the video has been treated on air by certain TV channels informs us about the bankruptcy of some editors occupying high positions in the media industry,” Ashutosh said.

Citing history, he mentioned that the private lives of political leaders had never been subjected to scrutiny in India. “With all its social infirmities, India in its larger consciousness has never questioned its leaders about what they do or have done in their private moments.”

Going further, Ashutosh gave the example of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s alleged affair with Edwina Mountbatten. He also raked up Mahatma Gandhi’s practice of celibacy apart from his reported closeness with Sarla Chaudhary.

“History is also witness to the fact that top leaders of the Congress in 1910s were worried about Gandhiji's relationship with Sarla Chaudhary..... Gandhiji in his later days slept naked with his two nieces to experiment with celibacy. Pandit Nehru had told him not to do so as the country would rise against him but Gandhiji did not budge,” he wrote.  

Ashutosh even made observations in relation to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and George Fernandes. He claimed that Vajpayee lived with a college friend despite not being married whereas Fernandes was known for his friendship with Jaya Jaitley though he was married to Laila Kabir.

The Congress and BJP have demanded an apology from Ashutosh. In Gujarat, BJP’s political workers burnt his effigies whereas the Grand Old Party protested against his remarks at Rajghat, the resting place of Mahatma Gandhi.

Aam Aadmi Party has distanced itself from Ashutosh’s statements. Delhi Rural Development Minister Gopal Rai had informed the press that Ashutosh’s column reflected his personal opinion.

Attempts were made by exchange4media to reach out to Ashutosh to know whether he stands by his comments or not. However, he did not either respond to our phone calls or text message at the time of filing of this report.

But Ashutosh remained active on Twitter where he repeatedly took potshots at the media accusing it of airing unverified videos but not having the courage to expose the wrongdoings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Referring to Gandhi’s autobiography titled “My experiments with truth”, Ashutosh suggested that he wasn’t apologetic about what he said. Instead he claimed that Gandhi had always inspired him to speak the truth. 

Besides Ashutosh, last week also saw AAP MP Bhagwant Mann embroiled in a controversy with the media. After Mann turned up late at a political rally, a dispute arose between him and the press. Media persons insisted that he should speak to them first and then address the rally since they were running short of time and had to cover other events as well.

An infuriated Mann allegedly instigated the crowd against the media accusing them of corruption and stated that they will be thrown out of the rally. Later on, he told a newspaper that journalists were spreading media terrorism.  

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