From unsmiling apparatchik to pin-up boy is quite a transition for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Vlad proved that he is quite a lad when he appeared topless while on holiday with Prince Albert of Monaco in the Siberian mountains. Of course, not everybody thinks that Mr Putin was abs fab in the photo, many feel that such exposure was unbecoming for the leader. But martial arts expert Putin has been quite a change from his predecessor Boris Yeltsin whom we mercifully never had to see in any stage of undress. The vodka-swilling Yeltsin was as extravagant as Mr Putin has been abstemious. Is there a political message in this projection of cool dude Putin?
Yes, feel many, this will enhance his appeal and signals that he is not about to leave the Kremlin any time now. Fortunately for Mr Putin, his shirtless avatar is easy on the eye, not something many leaders can boast of. Imagine, for example, Dubya prancing about his ranch with his torso on view. Not many takers there. It seems that many now want to emulate Mr Putin’s ‘vigorous torso.’
The Russian President may have created a bit of a kerfuffle among Moscow-watchers, but back home we are quite used to all this. How often we have seen pictures of Lalu Yadav or before him a Devi Lal clad in their banians and holding forth to the press and followers. Or leaders from Kerala and Tamil Nadu with dhotis delicately hitched up. All par for the course in our politics. But let’s hope not too many start going the Putin way in the sub-zero Russian winter. But then that’s really no shirt off our backs.