The Devil’s Advocate | Our political discourse can do better than question bags and bars

From Smriti Irani’s alleged links to a pub to Mahua Moitra’s luxury bag, things that ought not to be of our concern are for some reason nationally debated

If there was ever an Olympics in un-focusing and investing energy on mundane, inconsequential things, Indians might actually have a chance to top the medal’s tally. A week ago, the Opposition which by the way rarely mobilises on issues of pertinence and national importance, did so to uncover an alleged secret that no one asked to be investigated. It was alleged by members of the Opposition that Smriti Irani owned an unlicensed bar in Goa, run by her 18-year-old daughter. It snowballed into an issue unlike the gazillion others waiting to be picked up.

The Devils Advocate  Our political discourse can do better than question bags and bars

Union Minister Smriti Irani. ANI

A couple of days ago TMC MP Mahua Moitra was criticised for carrying a Louis Vuitton bag and possibly sliding it under the table, when mention of rising inflation was made in Parliament. I assumed that we had moved on from the appalling ‘sex CD’ era of diplomacy but it’s perplexing that Indians are more concerned with where Smriti Irani is investing her money or what brand Mahua Moitra is carrying to Parliament rather than duties they are required to perform as elected representatives of a democracy.

Since the accusations were first levelled Smriti Irani has been dragged to court, because who else has the time to debate the minutiae of life other than an already beleaguered and oversubscribed judiciary. Bring on the madness. Even if Irani was in violation of any rules, a mere nudge to authorities would have done the trick rather than make visual potpourri out of an event that frankly nobody is interested in witnessing.

I’m amazed that seasoned politicians continue to undermine tenets of basic decency to not just personalise attacks but also publicise them on public platforms that in effect do nothing for the public. Irani was the queen of cable TV’s soap boom and I’d frankly be alarmed if she didn’t have a diverse portfolio of investments that echoes a certain starry afterlife.

Mahua Moitra on the other hand is a former investment banker who has, before she jumped into politics for some reason, worked around the world. The fact that she carries an LV bag only affirms her experience of working in elite corporate corridors. Why must she be castigated for a choice that is entirely personal, not to mention believably in-line with her personality. Not that that should be our concern either.

It’s baffling then that these women who must be encouraged to import a certain grade of femininity to Parliament as a matter of lifestyle are then scrutinised for making certain choices that fall well within their rights and purview. As concerned citizens (or constructive Opposition if you like) we can perhaps dictate the terms of our political discourse to benefit the country.


Also Read

Congress’ undignified attack on Smriti Irani’s daughter shows how it remains awfully beholden to the Gandhis

My daughter’s fault is her mother speaks against loot by Sonia, Rahul Gandhi: Smriti Irani hits back at Congress

Mahua Mitra’s Louis Vuitton bag goes viral: When lawmakers took flak over fashion choices


For that matter what is even wrong with Irani owning a bar? Liquor is a booming industry, and it’s not just my liver that says so, but also sales, tax collections, a glut of new-age brands and a popular wine company on its way to list publically. It’s understandable that alcohol and prohibition have been hotly debated as a poll issue, but let us please calm down about the moralising standards we want to hold politicians up to. The sooner we let go of these gross expectations, the easier it might become for politicians to own, trade and strut their lifestyle in full public view.

In the case of Moitra, an expensive bag merely represents an affinity for luxurious brands that most people in this country would swear by. Indians don’t buy things they need, but things they can flaunt. A country that wishes to be wealthy as a collective must make its peace with the individual’s ability to both pine for, and reflect wealth. You possibly cannot aim for something that you cannot see, right?

Priorities aside there is a streak of sexism at display here that must be called out. Both Irani’s (alleged) and Mitra’s choices have been evaluated as a function of their gender, which would rarely happen to men in a similar context, because their audacity would be considered explicitly an appendage of their stylish personalities. Here it is being treated as tomfoolery, a thing that women would typically do or a thing that a woman should definitely not do. The point however is that why is it anyone’s business what lifestyle choices Irani and Moitra make?

Politics is the act of living in the public eye, but is more so an administrative function than it is a visual one. By overly investing in the visual, we as people and natural critics of those elected to govern us, set precedents that result in imagery that flatters to deceive. It’s probably why politicians insist on wearing white clothes, and making ceremonies out of humility to perpetuate an image that is as apologetic as it is fearful of public perception. Wealth doesn’t exactly have to be paraded in corridors where the poor and the underprivileged are subjects, but it need not also be invisiblised for the sake of performance, over authenticity. Especially in the case of women.

The author writes on art and culture, cinema, books, and everything in between. Views expressed are personal.

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