Are We Reading Too Much Into Politicians’ Private Lives?

A politician’s private life is a very public affair. In fact, people are curious about a political leader’s private life to gauge trustworthiness. Scrutinizing their personal lives might help us analyze their personal judgments and decision-making ability.  It might also give us a perspective. However, this should be practised in moderation.

I’m not pointing fingers at any leader questioning marital status of his rival. The moot point here is how logical or illogical is it to measure an individual’s stature on the basis of his/her private struggles. Firstly, we don’t expect our administrators to be a moral authority, do we? We want our leaders to be pro-people, pro-governance and proactive generals who enforce discipline in processes. A leader’s political performance should not be outweighed by his personal failures. There’s an emotional investment in personal life, but public sphere is all about emphatic action. Does it not build a case for separating one from the other?

Don’t shoot me for being an overt libertarian, but I am personally not concerned about a leader’s personal progress report unless it affects his public life. Till the time a person efficiently delivers on his promises, he remains a leader in the public eye. He/she won’t come to my bad books unless he falls into the vice of taking political missteps and making detrimental decisions. We will surely not correlate his sexual orientation with his decision to support decriminalization of gay sex. We won’t beckon his charred past or muggy present to justify every step he takes.

What if a leader is a philanderer in private life and an excellent administrator who is taking the country on the road to development? Will he be pulled down and replaced with a morally upright and a weak politician? We choose policies over personalities. We prefer achievement of socio-economic goals rather than going into gory details of motley things happening on the personal front. Of course, stability in personal life does boost the public image of a leader but that’s not absolute.

All humans are fallible. It is for us to decide whether follies of a leader are coming in the way of his public responsibilities. If he/she is actually accomplishing things and not crossing the line of civility, he is not doing any disservice to his people. It always helps to have an elected representative whose personal life is sorted, which he can flaunt as an USP. But honestly, we don’t want a ‘family man’ who contradicts himself and speak with a forked tongue.

The world has seen US President warming up to a White House colleague. It has also seen a British PM’s dalliance with the wife of a media mogul. Their political career was almost without any dent and hence, they are not judged by their personal flippancy. They still remain popular in public imagination. You can find a deluge of references which leads us to a truth that the best administrator can have a chequered private life and even the perpetrators of genocide can be a great family man.

It is upon us to decide whether the furore over a minister’s wife’s suspicious death and similar other outbursts fit into the new narrative of matured and evolved India.


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