The Times Of India has a small but prominent promo on its front page: Anna Hazare will be its guest editor today. Nothing unusual at first glance...a lot of newspapers have celebrities coming over as guest editors. They are given a list of stories to choose from, are allowed to pontificate for a while, and then the paper's real editor thankfully brings out the paper exactly how he or she dweems fit.
The celebrity gets a puff job, and the paper gets endorsed, and sells some ads that day at a premium.
Being a guest editor is pure and simple brand endorsement. It is also a tacit pact with the paper that you are its friend; very different from giving the paper's reporter a quote or two or writing an opinion piece for its edit page.
And that begs the question: is Indian 'revolution's' uncompromising poster-boy in a hurry to endorse brands, or cosy up to friendly media? Have we burdened Anna Hazare with greatness far above his weight? Has the spotlight been so beyond his expectation that he is in the danger of becoming mere flotsam in its tide?
What next? Detergent ads saying "Desh ki safedi ka raaz, Anna Hazare aur Rin", or "gandhey kapdo pe kranti, Anna aur Surf ke saath"?
Things have not been right around Anna Hazare since the spirited, hope-giving movement that spawned around him against corruption. Father and son Shanti and Prashant Bhushan both getting into the Lokpal panel and giving politicians unnecessary ammunition to attack Hazare; his friends in the movement Medha Patkar, Mallika Sarabhai and others criticising him for praising Narendra Modi; Baba Ramdev alleging nepotism. It has seemed like the petty, quarrelsome inner world of a local housing society rather than a robust movement.
In the aftermath of the protests, not a single drive to enlist volunteers or identify other issues has been made. There is still no web presence other than a Facebook account where people across India can post their grouses and get in touch with volunteers. There is no — using a horrendous corporatte term — 'roadmap'. It is as if Lokpal will solve India's problems.
Hazare and his friends have unprecedented popular momentum behind them. It is not often that the country's middle-class comes to the street in support or in protest. They can make changes that define tomorrow's India. Or he can be frivolous, arrogant, authoritarian, prone to favouritism...traits that are sadly poking their ugly little nose right now.