OPINION: Iconising and De-iconising Anna Hazare
Anna Hazare and his team members have reasons to be more cautious and understand that the media has potential in iconising as well as de-iconising a person. At a time when a bunch of prominent team members, including Prashant Bhushan, Swami Agniwesh, Rajinder Singh and Raju Parulekr, have willingly or unwillingly sidelined thus weakening the team, poor comments by Anna Hazare on diverse issues have left him exposed, indicating collateral damage to the team.
From April 5, 2011, the day when Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike, constant media focus pushed him into every Indian’s mind in terms of providing a platform for debate, discussion, and applause. However, people concerned with the follow up developments, put a question mark after censoring the magnitude and success of the movement of fight against corruption, and the more-than-supportive role of electronic and print media.
Media played an important role in turning the 73-year-old ordinary man into a young extraordinary man, and since the fast at Jantar Mantar and followed development, the ‘new Gandhian’ grew taller and stronger. The protest and hunger strike has long been doused off but to keep the campaign alive Anna makes news. The rush of news hungry reporters seeking comments on issues, which are hardly concerned to Anna, indicate that the Gandhian is an expert on multiple issues. The situation turns absurd and ridiculous when sometimes his comments fail to follow the Gandhian values and principle. For example his recent comments that “alcoholics should be flogged and shamed in public.” And another comment on the recent assault on the Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, when he said, “He got slapped! Only one slap?” opening all doors to criticism, thus compelling Anna to eat his words.
Anna had earlier voiced for capital punishment for those involved in cash-for-votes scam. He also camped in Hisar bypolls against the Congress. These developments were taken critically by the intelligentsia as campaigning against a corrupt politician and not against a particular party could yield the desired result.
Other team members also have similar stories to share. Kiran Bedi landed in controversy last month, when she used her gallantry medal to get 75 per cent discount on Air India tickets and then submitted inflated invoices to claim full fare from the organisers. In another instance, Delhi Police, on Nov 27, slapped a case of cheating against Ms. Bedi for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for her NGOs in line with a court’s directive. While Ms. Bedi is battling charges of inflating her travel bills, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal is facing allegations of irregularities involving donations; and lawyer Mr Prashant Bhushan had already courted controversy with his statement in favour of a plebiscite in Kashmir.
It is said that calamity seldom comes alone. And that is what it is happening with the team. The team also got a harsh reply from Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, who said, “he did not require anybody’s certificate in his crusade against corruption in the state.”
It is a bad time for Team Anna as more bad news is pouring than good news. The team needs to maintain its stand by sticking to the points and not commenting on irrelevant issues. They need to understand that losing credibility is like losing virginity. It is lost only once.