Prashant Bhushan has beaten a hasty retreat after calling the prime minister a ‘shikhandi’ on live TV. And Manmohan Singh’s emotional reaction to it, offering to step down if charges against him are proved, threatens to turn a battle against sleaze into a war over semantics. Still, since most of the other UPA ministers have not even bothered to react to the serious charges against them, the point to ponder is: did the lawyer get his mythology wrong? Does the ‘honest’ PM resemble Dhritarashtra from Mahabharata more than Shikhandi?
Bhushan is not the first one to slap the PM with the arguably sexist label. Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha had preceded him in the run-up to the 2009 general elections, accusing the ‘shikhandi prime minister’ of doing the bidding of an Italian. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Manmohan had let the slur pass then, but was stung by L.K. Advani calling him “nikamma” (useless). But four years is clearly a long time in politics judging from Manmohan’s mile-high reaction this time round.