The ink hasn't quite dried on the H.Y. Meti sex scandal but the public has already been witness to another controversy, this time by senior Congress leader T.P. Ramesh. His brazen attempt to hold MLC Veena Achaiah's hand on the dais at a public event was caught on tape, resulting in widespread cries for his resignation. This he did, but not without a strongly-worded letter proclaiming his innocence in which he insists Achaiah is like a sister to him. The treatment of women is questionable at any time and cannot be excused, say activists Pramila Nesargi and Asha Ramesh. Still, they tell Joyeeta Chakravorty, faultless decorum is even more essential amongst public figures, who serve as role models to the rest of society.
The state is no stranger to politicians misbehaving in public, but even so Congress leader from Kodagu, T.P. Ramesh hit a new low when he was caught on tape trying to take hold of his party MLC, Veena Achaiah's hand and rub it while seated on a dais at an Independence Day event. A visibly uncomfortable Ms Achaiah later told reporters she had never been treated so badly before. The response from women in the city is expectedly outrage at such blatant harassment of a woman on a public platform.
"When I saw the video I was disgusted. He was visibly pressing her hand and to call it a brotherly touch or caring gesture to ask after her health does not exactly add up," says an irritated Pramila Nesargi, a senior advocate and women's rights activist. "Politicians are public figures, who should set an example to the country and this behaviour does anything but," she adds disparagingly.
"Whatever they are to each other, they are public figures and he needs to maintain public decorum. It is inappropriate to make such gesture at a public event. You cannot show such familiarity. Public decorum is extremely important," agrees gender consultant and women's rights activist, Aasha Ramesh, adding that positions of authority cannot be taken lightly.
"It is very convenient to make excuses after they make these inappropriate advances and sadly, most of the time, a woman is in a vulnerable position and so keeps quiet about it," she goes on.
"It is not just about a code of conduct, it is about manners and etiquette on how to behave around a woman in public gatherings when both are public figures. But he (Ramesh) has been a habitual offender," nods Pramila.
"This event reminds one of the KPS Gill and Rupan Deol Bajaj case. The woman did not take it lightly and took his 'friendly' pat to court. And I supported her move. Women have to become strong and not tolerate this kind of behaviour, because it can send a message to other women, who probably look up to them, that they don't need to keep quiet either if such things happen," she sums up.