Mr. Jairam Ramesh had referred to himself as Shikhandi a year back, when faced with attacks for land acquisition for various projects. “I had become Shikhandi in Environment and Forest Ministry,” he had said. But his comment went relatively unnoticed. A year later, Shikhandi is back but this time in the center of a political storm of seemingly epic proportions. What is also back is the indefatigable Team Anna, this time armed with scores of documented evidence of corruption against fifteen ministers including the PM himself. While unleashing a barrage of allegations, Mr. Prashant Bhushan said that the PM was being used like “Shikhandi.” He meant that the Congress party was using the PM’s personal credibility and honesty as a “smoke screen” while indulging in seriously corrupt practices behind the scenes. Not surprisingly, there has plenty of chest-thumping, especially from the UPA, about the reference to “Shikhandi” to describe the PM. In fact, this entire episode has been replete with Bollywood-style melodrama. First, the allegation from the relentless Team Anna. Then, the counter allegations from the UPA combined with innuendos about cracks in Team Anna. And finally, the punchline from the PM himself (“I will give up my public life if allegations are proved against me….). What is missing now are signs of a filmy happy ending!
Firstly, we need to thank Mr. Bhushan for putting Shikhandi on the map and giving us a quick refresher on one of our great epics (Justice Katju should have something to cheer about?). I asked at least five highly educated people about Shikhandi and all of them confessed ignorance. A couple of those who hail from the south with limited knowledge of Hindi did a quick mental pattern match for similar sounding terms and wondered if it was some kind of “Shikanji!” (lime juice). So much for the pervasive power of our mythological metaphors.