Team Anna’s latest fast at Jantar Mantar was initially greeted by a tepid response by the aam admi and the media. After the high-voltage show at Ramlila Maidan last year, the camera lights had dimmed. Adding to the concerns of the anti-corruption crusaders was the absolute thumbs down by the government; no one from Lutyen’s Delhi appeared to be interested in them anymore.
The same ruling establishment which had wooed and ‘saluted’ Anna for his indomitable spirit and called him too ‘valuable’ for the nation, completely ignored him, a year after Parliament adopting a ‘sense of House’ resolution on the Lokpal Bill.
Although, the movement did gain pace after Anna Hazare himself took to the stage and began fasting along with others, it is clear that the latest round of fast did not really have the kind of action that they had hoped for.
Fact is that Team Anna was on the backfoot and had no strategy to counter the Congress led UPA government’s wait and watch game. One could almost feel them rubbing their hands in glee. As they say – Time is a great leveller.
Given the above scenario, Anna called off his ten day fast on Friday along with his key aides Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai and made an announcement which has started off a national debate.
Just before breaking his fast, Arvind Kejriwal revealed what we all had anticipated. “We will form our own party, the name and the manisfesto of which will be decided by the people.” So finally Team Anna has taken the all important plunge.
The question is whether Anna and his men had any options left? With nothing much happening this time around, they could not have simply called off the fast without a face-saver. And this declaration of providing a political alternative was probably the best option left for them.
Critics of Anna and his team like senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh have maintained throughout that the movement had political aspirations. In fact it was also being said time and again that people like Kejriwal were using the diminutive man from Realegan Siddhi for their personal ambitions.
When Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said that they always knew that Team Anna were inspired by politics and that it was good that whatever the intention was it had come out clear, one could almost feel the sense of victory for the Congress party. Also it may have given them a sense of confidence. After all political arena is the grand old party’s area of strength but appears to be completely alien territory for Anna’s motley group.
It’s not just the Congress, to take Team Anna on in their own turf and in their own background will be something parties cutting across political lines will not mind.
But the moot question is whether this experiment of Anna’s men will succeed or is it embarking on a path of destruction? Politics is a different ballgame altogether. And that too in a country like India where caste and religion play an important role in electoral politics.
However, Team Anna can take solace from the fact that the last couple of state elections have shown, albeit slowly but surely, that the voting pattern of the country is changing. The last elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh did bring to light the fact that people are voting on the plank of good governance and development. And if Team Anna can convince the electorate that they can clean up the system, the people of this country who are fed up with deep rooted corruption may give them a chance.
Will Anna be able to provide a formidable front in 2014 is a matter for posterity? However the immediate challenge that will confront them will be how to embark on the road to electoral politics. It will be anything but a smooth ride. It will be bumpy and pull of potholes.
The transition from being a pressure group to a political front will not be easy. What will the organisational structure of the front be? Questions will arise on ways to fund the elections and the task of finding more than 500 ‘clean’ candidates who can win. Also the team has to be prepared to take in criticisms just as any political outfit is criticised if they are found wanting. Apart from their views on corruption and Lokpal, the team will have to make their stand clear on a host of issues confronting the country. For starters, they have to start talking in one language and their intentions have to be pure.
<i>Post Script:</i> But as Ghalib said - <i>Ek aag ka darya hai aur doob ke jaana hai.</i> Likewise the team has to prepare themselves on a war footing to jump into the political cauldron of India. However, let us not be cynics and let us give Anna Hazare and his band of soldiers a chance. In a democratic country like ours everyone has the right to form a political party and fight elections. After all there are more than 60 political parties and seven national parties in India. There is surely space for one more, especially one which promises to be different.
Whatever the outcome or fate of Team Anna may be, one thing is sure – we are in for interesting times ahead.