IANS, Tuesday, 19 August, 2008: Furious at their leader, Ramdas Athavale being dropped from the reality show Bigg Boss-II, hundreds of Republican Party of India (RPI) workers ransacked the office of Colors television channel.
Politics will never be the same again. The burning desire of politicians to be on reality TV show Bigg Boss is set to herald a dramatic change in the country’s politics. Apart from Mr Athavale’s unsuccessful attempt, the show already features Sanjay Nirupam from the Congress and several other politicians are pulling all the strings they can to get in. “You’re in front of a camera every single minute of the day for three months, it’s every politician’s dream,” pointed out a political pundit. “They would do anything to get on the show.”
Unreliable sources say that the UPA is trying to persuade Shibu Soren to accept a place in Bigg Boss rather than become the chief minister of Jharkhand. “It will catapult him on to the national stage”, said a UPA worker, “millions of people who have never heard of him might start to vote for him.” Sources say the plan is to let him carry a bow and arrow (the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s party symbol) on the set so that viewers get to know the symbol. Strangely, the plan also reportedly has the strong support of the Shiv Sena, which coincidentally has the same electoral logo as the JMM.
Some viewers are sceptical about politicians muscling in on the show. “Who wants to see boring old politicians,” said a biased young viewer, “when we’d rather see Sherlyn Chopra in a bikini instead.” But TV producers are not so sure. “Some of these politicos have great sound bytes”, pointed out one of them, “although it’s true that women politicians lack a certain something.” Unconfirmed reports say that efforts are on to rope in Jayalalithaa and Mayawati, but it’s confirmed that none of them will wear bikinis. ‘Politicians have vast experience in shouting down the opposition, yelling slogans, back-stabbing, crossing floors and staging dramatic walk-outs, they’re great performers’ said an enthusiastic producer. “Why, some of them even have special skills like smashing benches and running around with large sacks filled with money. It’s bound to make great TV,” he added. Even the backbenchers could come in useful. “For instance,” argued a viewer, “one recent task for Bigg Boss participants was to sleep for 100 hours. A veteran sleeper like Deve Gowda could do that with his eyes closed.”
Many politicians are enthusiastic about reality shows. “While parliamentary proceedings are also broadcast live, nobody watches them,” explained one of them. ‘On the show, nobody can stop us hogging the limelight.” Several political parties have already started preparing their strategies. Bahujan Samaj Party workers, for instance, have reportedly procured an elephant and are painting it blue, so that BSP representatives selected for the programme can go on the show with their party symbol, the blue elephant. Mr Athavale’s party reportedly plans to demand that seats be reserved in the show for Dalits. Some are busy hatching a deep conspiracy to topple the Big Boss — the person who runs the show, and become Big Bosses themselves. Others are promising free TVs, free electricity and free rice to viewers who vote to eject their rivals from the programme.
TV producers have been quick to spot the opportunity. “I’m planning a reality show solely for politicians,” said a producer. “They’re willing to pay good money.” “Imagine the fun and games if I could get the Hurriyat Conference guys and the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti people cooped up in a locked room for three months,” he added. “While they will be at each other’s throats on TV, peace will reign in Jammu & Kashmir.” But sources say that rumours of the UPA government funding a reality show that will see the leaders of major opposition parties permanently locked up in a house are untrue. The Prime Minister could not be reached for his comments on the matter.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint