The Anna-Arvind divorce: Competing tales of a celebrity breakup

by Lakshmi Chaudhry  Sep 25, 2012 13:35 IST

"Everybody's been saying Anna's left us. Anna has not left us, he's in our hearts," Arvind Kejriwal told supporters in Jantar Mantar on Sunday, with the plaintive insistence that he displayed later in his conversation with Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN. "Why are you calling it a break. There is no break… He will come back [in 3-4 months] if we keep on doing our work honestly, and we keep on doing our work sincerely," he insisted, much like an abandoned pativrata in denial.

All this loyal fervour even as the venerable great man is busy yelling the political equivalent of 'talaq, talaq, talaq' at every opportunity.

I have made it very clear that I do not want to be a part of any political party or formation. I’d vowed against this at a young age. I’ve said I will not have my name used as publicity for any party propaganda," Anna Hazare told reporters at the Constitution Club, describing the split as an “India-Pakistan like divide.”

hapless husband and scheming wife? AP

This isn't just a 'break,' Anna insists, it's a final and irreparable divorce.

As with all celebrity breakups, the media are busy decoding the evidence to discern the 'why'.

One theory is that Annaji was 'cheating,' cuddling up to rightwing groups on the sly. And leaving Arvind is just the first step to going public with his new squeeze. Or so goes the story in today's DNA:

“The RSS and the BJP have a clear role in what is happening between Hazare and his team. Before Anna met Kejriwal and others on Wednesday, he had a meeting with Ramdev on Tuesday night about which no one in Team Kejriwal had any idea about. Not only that, after meeting Kejriwal and company on Wednesday, Hazare again met Ramdev and several others,” sources told DNA.

“Hazare has flirted around with Ramdev in the past also. Earlier, he had kept secret information about details of his meeting with law minister Salman Khurshid,” the sources added.

No prizes for guessing which camp these "sources" belong to. Much like the TomKat divorce, the two parties are already working overtime to control the media narrative. It's not me, it's him!

A recent Tehelka article offers the other side of the story put out by Anna supporters. Their soap opera version of this messy falling out: hapless husband leaves controlling b***h.

"Challenging a hostile government made it impossible for him to factor in dissent. To combat the absolute hostility of the UPA required Arvind to be absolutist about his position. Therefore, no resistance, not even from Anna, was allowed," writes Revathi Laul, laying the blame on an "arrogant" Kejriwal, a wannabe politician intent on manipulating his innocent and more famous partner: "Anna the activist, the simpleton but also the angry old man."

Oh, and Arvind lies, all the time about survey results, Anna's views….

Kejriwal emerges here as the ambitious and ruthless wife exploiting her husband's reputation toward her own ends. Who then can blame Anna for choosing his good name over misplaced loyalty:

In Anna’s view, politics equals death for an activist and for the movement he stood for. His face had empowered Arvind’s cause. But its main calling card all along has been Anna’s unique brand — sacrifice and sewa. A party would strip Anna immediately of his source of power, even if it strengthens Arvind’s. Being the symbol of Arvind’s party would eat into his Gandhian image and his core support base in his hometown.

As with such bitter superstar divorces, the anti-corruption movement has splintered into opposing loyalist camps, each unwittingly or otherwise playing to celebrity breakup script. Where we once had rivaling Team Aniston and Team Jolie t-shirts, we're now in the thick of the battle of the gandhi caps: "I am Anna" v "I am Arvind".

The jostling between the two sides -- via sound bytes, TV appearances, and anonymous quotes -- is turning each into an absurd stereotype. Kejriwal tries to claim higher ground -- and political cover -- by pretending to undergo his own agnipariksha to win back his reluctant spouse. Anna is eager to reclaim his Ram-like reputation by repudiating those he once held close.

Thin is the line between politics and a Sunday morning serial. And there can be no happy ending for the nation when good men willfully cross that lakshman rekha.

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