The sting operation that allegedly showed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) functionary Kumar Vishwas in a ‘compromising position with a woman’ and the one in which AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal is supposedly trying to split the Congress legislature party are ironical. In both cases AAP, which is a believer in such dodgy methods, has been at their receiving end. Sting operations have a ring of certitude around them. People who orchestrate them do so on the assumption that they have evidence beyond reproach to establish a person’s guilt or wrongdoing because technology is involved here. In the 1990s, a minister who had been told he was being interviewed ‘off record’ had to resign because he trusted his interviewer too much and rashly said ‘Harshad Mehta once used to be seen in each minister’s bedroom’. This is a direct case of mendacity. With advances in hidden-camera technology, falsehood combined itself with spying, as had been seen in the Tehelka episode, which felled Bangaru Laxman, then BJP president.
There have been numerous sting operations on politicians and influencers in recent times. In many instances, the acts recorded are not in themselves illegal. But often the damage to the person’s reputation is done. Politicians don’t make matters easier for themselves by proclaiming that they are reluctant players in the field, selflessly taking on the yoke of national service. In which event, a recording of them taking money, even if such funds were shown on the books, all the more enrages people.
The matter gets further clouded when one considers the technology itself, i.e. the quality of the pictures and the voice. In recent years, each time such a clip — audio or video — has sprung up, doubts as to its authenticity have emerged almost in tandem. What follows is obfuscation and nothing very conclusive, despite occasional scrutiny by the Central Forensic Science Lab. So the moral of the story is that technology on its own is value neutral. But such is the shock value of this method, that more of such operations are bound to be initiated. The old-fashioned route of besting your political opponent through debate and discussion involves too much work and no guarantee of results, it would seem.