Did they sex up their dossiers? Indian ministers 'caught' watching porn

 

India's right-wing Bharatiya Janta Party is known for its staunch conservatism and hard-line religious views. But it risks developing an image problem after two of its lawmakers were accused of viewing pornography in the Gujarat state assembly, only weeks after two BJP ministers in the south-western state of Karnataka were forced to quit after being caught watching x-rated videos on a mobile phone.

Shankar Chaudhury and Jetha Bharwad are accused of being less than attentive while their colleagues in the assembly scrutinised the details of the Gujarat state budget on Tuesday. Instead of discussing grants for the water resources department, the two are alleged to have been browsing "obscene" images on a tablet computer.

"First they started by watching the pictures of Swami Vivekananda [a 19th-century Hindu religious leader], then cartoons and then pics of women," Janak Dave, a journalist who was watching the proceedings from the press gallery, told the Press Trust of India. "I went to the speaker's chamber and complained to his PA, who informed the speaker and the viewing was stopped."

The two politicians denied the allegations and called for an examination of CCTV footage. Although a journalist submitted a clip which showed the pair watching something on a tablet, the images were not clear enough. "The claim is baseless and without any truth," Mr Chaudhury told The Times of India. "I often draft letters and other official documents in the House just to get some office work done. That is all I was doing when the clip was made."

On Wednesday, the speaker of the state assembly, Ganpat Vasava, ordered an inquiry into the affair.

The opposition Congress party, whose lawmakers have been calling for the dismissal of the two BJP legislators, immediately drew comparisons with the controversy in Karnataka in February, when two BJP ministers, including the incumbent responsible for women and child welfare, were forced to resign after being filmed watching pornographic clips on a mobile. A third minister stood down after being accused of providing the clip.

"It seems the... party has not learnt any lessons from a similar episode in Karnataka," Congress party spokesman Rashid Alvi said. Having a dig at the BJP's conservatism, he added that the incident had "exposed the true face" of the party which keeps "harping" about Indian culture.

"We can only pray to God that such a thing is now not repeated in any third BJP-ruled state," he said.

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