Is Anna going overboard?

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 11:02
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

With Anna Hazare getting MCD’s nod to stage a protest at the Ramlila Maidan from December 27, our proactive 24X7 media will again throng the historic ground to catch every glimpse of the anti-crusader’s head-on collision with the Congress-led ruling coalition. The first week of the Parliament’s Winter Session has been washed out and despite several appeals from the Prime Minister, a united Opposition is hell bent on disrupting the proceedings in days to come.

So it seems highly unlikely that the government would be able to pass several important legislations including the most controversial Lokpal Bill. The government appears to be helpless and Anna’s team is desperate to see that the anti-graft bill is passed in Parliament. Anna in past threatened to stage massive protests if there is no headway on the issue in this session of the Parliament.

On December 27, the Lokpal jamboree and the entire nation will witness the sequel of Anna’s historic Ramlila Maidan fast, which whipped the nation’s rage against the UPA government for its half-hearted measures in fighting corruption in public life.

But the bigger question here is: Will it work this time? Will the managers of Anna’s Lokpal campaign succeed in generating the same heat as they did in past? Shouldn’t he give some more time to our politicians to arrive at a consensus? Is he aware of the flip-flops and the shortcomings of his own movement before passing the entire blame on the political class for the present deadlock on the Lokpal issue? Why is Anna not shifting his focus to other issues of equal importance?

This certainly needs to be debated.

Like millions of my brethren, I also look up to him in anticipation that my countrymen will eventually reap the fruits of his august revolution when an effective anti-graft mechanism comes into force. There is no doubt that his movement against corruption has awakened the nation from a deep slumber and united it for a good cause.

It was his conviction and determination that forced the Parliament to agree in principle to bring lower bureaucracy in the ambit of Lokpal, appointing Lokayuktas in the states and a citizen's charter for government departments.

However, few months later, his movement seems to be losing rhythm and direction. His movement appears to be moving on a different track and a ‘non-political’ Anna is now being blamed for working with a ‘hidden political agenda.’

Anna’s movement has gone haywire at numerous levels since its start. Anna’s chosen aides initially managed the Lokpal agitation quite well, but with their repeated flip-flops they have now fallen flat, giving their rivals a chance to capitalise on their mistakes.

Those who were attacked by the anti-corruption crusader in the beginning are now hitting back and projecting themselves as the custodians of parliamentary democracy, which is facing threats from Anna and his team. Strangely enough, those who started the India Against Corruption movement, claiming to strengthen the people’s democracy (Lok Satta) are now on the back foot defending themselves in the quagmire of dubious distinctions.

Anna’s political neutrality is being questioned and he has been alleged to be acting as an undercover agent of BJP with clandestine support of right-wing Hindu outfit RSS.

Anna made a number of tactical mistakes. The first was to nominate two persons from the same family in the Lokpal committee- Prashant and Shanti Bhushan. Secondly, he distanced himself from Baba Ramdev, who had first raised the issue of black money and corruption. He gave a free hand to a bunch of highly ambitious people, who slowly hijacked his movement over their personal grievances against the system.

Anna also shooed away those political leaders who lent full support to his movement cutting across the party lines such as Uma Bharti and Om Prakash Chautala. One by one, most of his trusted lieutenants were accused of financial irregularity, tax evasion, misappropriation of funds and making controversial statements, suggesting plebiscite on J&K.

Anna’s decision to campaign against the Congress during the Hisar Lok Sabha by-elections in Haryana also led to differences among the team with two of his close associates - Rajendra Singh and PV Rajgopal – who made a quick exit following differences over Anna’s political stand. This was probably the first time, when Anna, a revered national icon, jumped into the political arena, triggering severe backlash from Congress, which accused him of being the ‘plan B’ of the main opposition BJP.

It was around this time when 94-year-old Gandhian Shambhu Dutt, who ended his fast-unto-death demanding Lokpal bill after Team Anna's promise to take the campaign forward, regretted his decision of handing over his fight to Anna and his team of "yes men".

Even Hazare's blog, which started connecting with the younger generation and maintained the momentum of his anti-corruption crusade, came under scanner after his official blogger, Raju Parulekar, wrote that the veteran social activist wanted to restructure the all-powerful core committee. Parulekar claimed that the septuagenarian crusader wanted to throw "undemocratic and fascist" Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and "their pawns" out of the core group.

Parulekar also claimed that he possessed a hand-written note by Anna, but regretted that it was not posted online under pressure from Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan. Anna later distanced himself from Parulekar and ended his blog. The latest controversy surrounding Anna is his suggestions to flog the drunkards publicly. A man considered to be Mahatma Gandhi’s modern day incarnation is now being equated with Taliban, which resorts to such radical ways to punish the violators of the Sharia laws.

Anna’s biggest mistake is his failure to understand the country’s political mechanism and that a parliamentary democracy has several loose ends and it works with its own pace. It cannot be forced or blackmailed to produce desired results. By claiming that the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by his team is the best one, he seems to have underestimated the genius of people like Arun Jaitley, Sitaram Yechury, Fali Nariman who could have further pushed his fight for Lokpal.

It would be incorrect to say that Congress government is sitting idle and not doing the needful. In fact, the UPA regime has initiated several measures to curb corruption and has planned legislations like the whistle-blower protection act and other safeguards to prevent corruption in the private sector.

Anna should avoid projecting himself as the self-appointed authority on corruption and his team should refrain from stealing all the limelight on the anti-graft crusade. We need to understand that the scourge of corruption can’t be handled single-handedly. We need to eradicate it from our psyche if we really aspire to build a corruption-free society.

Anna is a revered figure and his love for the nation is unquestionable. He should tread his path carefully and should also complement the government for taking commendable initiatives. He should also question non-Congress governments, which are facing criticism over graft, nepotism and other evils which politics and power wields. He should also keep in mind that leading a mass movement is like walking on a tightrope.

First Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 11:02

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