New Delhi: Congress MP Manish Tewari gave a long and animated speech in the Lok Sabha during a debate on the J&K Reorganisation Bill 2019 Tuesday, outlining the state’s entire history.
But the seasoned lawyer slipped up when Home Minister Amit Shah asked him a question, resorting to a dubious literature reference to voice his concerns about the government’s decision to strip J&K’s special status, bifurcate it and reduce it to a union territory.
As Tewari weighed in on J&K’s days as a princely state, going on to describe its tenuous political situation today, Shah eventually asked him: What exactly is the Congress’ stance on Article 370?
Tewari responded, “Angrezi ki ek kitaab hai — har cheez kaali ya safed nahi hoti (There’s a book in English — everything isn’t black or white) … There are fifty shades of grey in between.”
Tewari’s intention was clear, to suggest that the complex issue of J&K’s special status and bifurcation couldn’t be looked at in simplistic terms. But his reference to the blockbuster erotic novel, the first of a series by British author E.L. James that explores the world of BDSM, was a curious one.
Did the lawmaker think the book was actually about ambiguities in the Indian Constitution, or was he making a larger point about politics and… strange bedfellows? Dominance? Sadism? One will never know.
Even if his fellow parliamentarians didn’t react (either because they didn’t get it or because they didn’t hear it), the damage was already done as the good people of the internet lost no time in cracking jokes about the minister’s reading habits.
As soon as Manish Tiwari mention 50 Shades of Grey, the whole country now on google. pic.twitter.com/wslZdmeIuE
— Irfan (@simplyirfan) August 6, 2019
Manish Tewari thinks that 50 Shades Of Grey is a book about issues that are undefined or unclear. These are the same who think American Pie is a movie about food.
— Sagar (@sagarcasm) August 6, 2019
Different shades of Congress
The fact that Shah had to ask Tewari to clearly state his party’s stance on the issue was embarrassing in itself, as the Congress has utterly failed to display a unified stand. Milind Deora proffered a diplomatic statement, while Jyotiraditya Scindia fully supported abrogation of 370, though not the means by which it is being done.
Very unfortunate that Article 370 is being converted into a liberal vs conservative debate.
Parties should put aside ideological fixations & debate what’s best for India’s sovereignty & federalism, peace in J&K, jobs for Kashmiri youth & justice for Kashmiri Pandits.
— Milind Deora मिलिंद देवरा (@milinddeora) August 5, 2019
Would have been better if constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country’s interest and I support this.
— Jyotiraditya M. Scindia (@JM_Scindia) August 6, 2019
Rahul Gandhi, who tweeted this morning, said: “This abuse of executive power has grave implications for our national security.”
National integration isn’t furthered by unilaterally tearing apart J&K, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land.
This abuse of executive power has grave implications for our national security.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 6, 2019
Meanwhile, Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury embarrassed the party further by questioning whether the Jammu & Kashmir issue was an internal matter at all.
In all this, for Tewari to muddy the waters further with his fifty shades remark seems like one more own goal for the Congress.
Fifty Shades of Grey, the novel Tewari tried to educate his peers about, follows the relationship and bedroom exploits of college student Anastasia Steele and the much-older business tycoon Christian Grey.
Featuring sexually-explicit scenes involving the use of ropes, toys, blindfolds and sexual practices such as spanking, the trilogy follows the trajectory of their bond (pun intended) from the first meeting to hooking up, then breaking up, and getting back together, with plenty of fights and make-up sex in between.
Initially self-published, the first book was picked up by a publishing company and became a worldwide sensation close to a decade ago, despite largely negative reviews.
Starring Dakota Johnson as Anastasia and Jamie Dornan as Christian, the films, like the novels, have been panned by critics. The first two films were banned in India.
As it happens, Tewari’s literature-inspired retort came the same day Shah distributed copies of his book — a collection of his speeches on Right-wing leaders titled Sanskritik Rashtravad Ke Shilpi (Architects of Cultural Nationalism) — in Parliament.
Tewari, an author himself, published his third book, The Fables of Fractured Times, this year, a compilation of his write-ups on politics and governance for the media. A far cry from erotic fiction.
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