By Ravi Shankar
05th August 2012 12:34 AM
Sometime next year, a spacecraft will be launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. It plans to descend on the surface of Mars. This is a prelude to putting an Indian on the planet in 2016. At an average distance of some 225 million km away, a shiny new planet is being midwifed into the political universe—Planet Anna. In Roman mythology, Mars is the god of war. Planet Anna is the new god of war against corruption and media that doesn’t give it enough television time or newsprint space.
Astrologers say, if Mars is in the right position on the birth chart, the subject is invincible. If Mars is malefic, destruction is inevitable. In Planet Anna’s case, soothsayers are bound to be stupefied. They would be unable to divine who exerts more influence, the planet or its satellites? It is not Planet Anna’s gravity that holds its moons in orbit. The satellites are the ones that decide how the planet moves. And Planet Anna has too many moons, each with its own spin.
There is Kiran Bedi, the embittered former cop whose national ambition is unmasked on the stage where she stands waving the Indian flag like a tricolour Boadicea. What’s her patchwork gestalt? Indira Gandhi? Imelda Marcos? Rani Jhansi? Then there is Prashant Bhushan, the maverick bleeding heart lawyer who has spent his professional life filing PILs and courting controversy and headlines—some good, some dubious. Hazare watchers feel Bhushan’s ultra-Left prominence seems to have driven away the Hindu nationalist component of the Jantar Mantar census; if IB’s covert Anna cell is to be believed, Maoists and Leftist cadres have taken their space. Bhushan supports the view that Kashmiris should be allowed to decide whether they should remain in India or not. There is also the sulkaholic Santosh Hegde, the former jurist whose claim to fame is persecuting BS Yeddyurappa and whose distaste for politics is eccentric. The biggest satellite, of course, is Arvind Kejriwal—the media-savvy, Magsaysay award-winning activist who has donned the role of a prime minister-in-waiting on Planet Anna. He plays Nehru to Anna’s Gandhi, and is the main force behind the political side of his civil society cause. The idea to convert the movement into a political party is the brainchild of Bhushan and Kejriwal. The dissonance between Anna and his satellites, however, was obvious when he remarked—as Kejriwal lay on fast—that fasting is a waste of time since there are two more years to go before the elections. Is it, perhaps, a subtle suggestion that the satellite is exceeding its orbit? The statement, however, also exposed Anna’s political naivete: after all, he is India’s Fasting Man—the satyagrahi who has claimed the heads of ministers and the man who once held the Union government to ransom by denying himself food.
The food for thought, however, is Planet Anna’s hunger for power. Sci-fi aficionados have for long speculated that life began on Mars. So, what is the Anna chromosome? Good intentions of a collective ego? Desperation to escape middle class disinterest? Or is there a plan? Anyone can join politics. Only a few can become leaders. Kejriwal and his ilk should know that aping the Mahatma by going on a diet does not make one a leader.
In the heady UFO days of the 1960s and ’70s, when Planet of the Apes and the Martian invasion fired the imagination of a generation, the favourite sci-fi scenario was Martians landing on the White House lawns and demanding, “Take me to your leader.” The fantasy is now being turned on its head: on Planet Anna, there are too many leaders—the satellites that purr through Anna’s neo-Gandhian galaxy. Any alien that lands at Jantar Mantar and demands to be taken to the leader is likely to be executed summarily. Sounds like a plan.
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