Swami Agnivesh turns to Bigg Boss in publicity quest
India, touted as a land of mysticism and spirituality, boasts a large number of TV channels devoted to religion and faith. But for self-avowed Hindu reformist Swami Agnivesh, a former member of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazareâ€™s core team, the limelight of primetime reality TV was just too tempting.
Agnivesh, who controversially split from Hazareâ€™s cadre of anti-graft warriors that mobilised millions against Indiaâ€™s corruption-smeared government, will on Tuesday appear on reality showÂ Bigg Boss, Indiaâ€™s version of primetime hitÂ Big Brother, in which contestants are under house arrest for three months with round-the-clock camera surveillance.
“People fight on the show but no worse than how MPs sometimes behave. It’s possible to bring about change withÂ Bigg Boss. I’ve fought for forty-five years against exploitation in society, dowry, bride-burning, casteism, female foeticide,â€ť the saffron-clad social activist said at a press conference on Tuesday.
â€śIt’s been a mission of my life to strive for gender equality, I think I can teach these youngsters a thing or two,” the 72-year-old said, also denying that his participation in the show, which has a reputation of being crass and voyeuristic, will mar his virtuous image.
The social workerâ€™s exposure on a TV show that has previously featured former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and disgraced former Bollywood actor Shakti Kapoor, may see him give Indiaâ€™s most famous yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who turned live yoga telecasts into a $40 million-a-year global yoga and health empire, a run for his money as a household name.
Soon after Anna Hazareâ€™s nearly two-week hunger strike against corruption in August, a video surfaced allegedly showing Agnivesh speaking to an unidentified person, whom his former colleagues said was a minister from the Congress-led national government.
Agnivesh was labelled a broker for the Congress party, and was forced to withdraw from the nationwide movement.
Since he announced his participation in the TV show, conspiracy theories surrounding a possible government plot to undermine Hazareâ€™s continued campaign by giving his tainted former colleague maximum exposure have begun to circulate.
â€śCould there be a Congress hand in placing of Swami Agnivesh in Bigg Boss to counter Team Anna?Â Strategic move in utter desperation?â€ť tweeted activist-turned-journalist Aditya Raj Kaul, as â€śSwami Agniveshâ€ť trended as one of the most talked about people on Tuesday.
AnalystsÂ believe Swami Agniveshâ€™s decision to sign up for the reality showÂ could soon see his revered personality reduced to a mere caricature of his former self.
Might a reality TV show better known for C-list actors and former glamour models provide the next twist in the story of Hazare, his team, and their long-running anti-corruption drive?
(Interact with Annie on twitter at @anniebanerji)