That Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das let two women wash his feet with milk at a Guru Purnima function in Jamshedpur was bad enough, but the state's BJP dismissing the incident as routine, is telling of the culture of entitlement that politicians continue to enjoy.
Das, 62, is seen standing on a huge plate at the Bharatiya Yugavashistha Brahmananda Sangha (BYBS) at Brahma Lok Dham in Jamshedpur's Kadma area as women, with their heads covered, pour milk mixed with rose petals over his feet. Washing the feet of an elderly person is not uncommon in Indian culture. Seen as a sign of respect, it is also a standard custom in many Hindu marriages.
However in a society that still keeps women in subjugation, and often forces them to look upon men as their protectors and providers, the video projects the very image of patriarchy that women are battling. As Congress leader Ranjeet Ranjan pointed out: "When the matters of washing feet or serving comes then why only women are made to done that."
State BJP spokesman, Pratul Sahdeo, played down the incident saying, "The washing of feet was part of a traditional welcome, which is common in Jharkhand's tribal culture." Tribal activist Dayamani Barla pointed out to Times of India that "the CM is expected to represent the entire society" and should have "behaved like a common man".
However, politicians in India do not count themselves among the ordinary — to lead by example, remain rooted, and empathise with the millions who vote them into power. They enjoy unwarranted powers and privileges without hesitation, and believe them to be the perks of the job.
Take, for example, the incident during which Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was seen being carried by two policemen during his visit to a flood-hit area of Amanganj Tehsil in Panna district. The absurdity of wearing white sneakers on a tour of flooded areas apart, Chouhan sparked a social media storm by his stunt, captured on a phone camera.
In March this year, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad was put on the 'no fly' list of several airlines after he allegedly beat up a 60-year-old Air India officer with sandals and tried to throw him off an aircraft at the Delhi airport, following a scuffle over a seat. The MP's conversation was taped on a cell phone and was played over and over again by TV channels, but Gaikwad remained largely unrepentant.
Bharatiya Janata Party MP, Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, rode alone in a bus from the Patna airport to a Jet Airways flight while his co-passengers were left waiting. Yadav said he had not asked for preferential treatment.
When Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh banned the use of red beacon on government vehicles, Union Minister Uma Bharti was unhappy. She said: "If any minister is going for his duty, then red beacon and stopping traffic is fine and even a flight can get delayed by five to seven minutes if minister is going to attend crucial meet because it might result in loss of crores of rupees."
The toxic VIP culture that elevates a CM to a level of worship, also enables rampant discrimination. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Mann Ki Baat address said: "In the New India concept, instead of VIP, there has to be EIP or Every Person is Important."