Embarrassment, pity, scorn and some condemnation characterised conversations in Goa following the emergence of a scandal concerning British Labour MP Keith Vaz, who is of Goan origin.
Vaz has been accused of paying for the services of male escorts in an exposé published on Sunday in the UK paper, the Sunday Mirror.
Vaz is Britain’s longest-serving MP of Indian origin. Though he was born in Aden in Yemen, his parents are from Goa and the community proudly claims the politician as one of its own. Vaz is a regular supporter of community events organised by Goans in the UK and elsewhere in the world.
After the UK voted for Brexit earlier this year, Vaz called the vote a catastrophe, and spoke for the rights of Goans with Portuguese passports to stay on in the UK.
As details of the Vaz scandal broke, the normally voluble social media platforms in Goa ignored it. However, on private email groups read within the Goan community, Vaz was treated with a mix of sympathy and condemnation.
“Acts of KV have brought shame to our community yet again,” said one message on the GoaNet mailing list.
Others were more circumspect. "I am in two minds. I don’t know what to believe," a former UK resident living in Goa told Scroll.in, while pointing out that outspoken Labour MPs usually got a rough deal from the establishment media.
There was sympathy too.
Another discussant on GoaNet said: "I feel sorry for him. He broke many glass ceilings and rose to high political positions. He made Goans proud…If only he did not get enmeshed in situations that questioned his moral turpitude – consorting with dubious characters like scandal-ridden wealthy Indian tycoons…and now this. Let's see whether 'Teflon' Vaz slips out of this too."
The articulate lawyer-turned politician's critics call him a Teflon politician, a reference the well known non-stick cookware substance, for his alleged ability to come out of controversies unscathed.
‘An acute embarrassment’
However, Goa's commissioner for Non-Resident Indian affairs, Dr Wilfred Mesquita, conceded that the controversy was a "very big embarrassment".
"Most people, including me, had high expectations of him,” he told Scroll.in. “I found it unbelievable."
Goan Right to Information activist and lawyer Aires Rodrigues drew links between the UK scandal and those unfolding in India, saying in his blog that the exposé "only exposes the sagging moral values of those in public life".
He wrote: "Persons in public life are expected to be moral exemplars of morality and ethics as they have pledged to uphold and defend that realm."
Still others were willing to grant that the truth, like politics, was multi-layered.
One comment on GoaNet said: “Can't understand if ‘amcho’ Keith is one heck of a guy who's always courting trouble, or if it is the Brit tabloids always hounding this politician of colour. Or is it a mix of both?"