He came to Delhi from a small village in Maharashtra. Within days, he had lakhs of supporters, followers and well wishers. Anna Hazare, who has become the leader of so-called India’s “second freedom struggle”, is now a youth icon, a brand, a ray of hope. He attracted such a feverish following that the politicians were left wondering.
In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, Sanjay Kumar, a political analyst, discusses the movement led by the 74-year-old civil rights activist.
Sanjay Kumar is a Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Studies and deputy director of Lokniti, a research program of CSDS.
Kamna: Anna Hazare is fondly called “modern-day Mahatma”. Do you think he should be given this tag?
Sanjay: While one cannot take away from Anna Hazare the credit of leading such a huge mobilisation, it is too much to call Anna Hazare a modern day Mahatma. We all know that Mahatma Gandhi had a way to put forward his demands; he always used to leave space for negotiations, always willing to concede a little and listen to others. Frankly, I do not find any of these qualities in Anna Hazare. I personally have objections to calling Anna Hazare a modern-day Mahatma.
Kamna: Anna Hazare has risen from being a local activist to national anti-corruption crusader. How do you explain the Anna Hazare phenomenon that has gripped India?
Sanjay: Again, all credit to Anna for leading this movement and being able to mobilise people in huge numbers, unprecedented in the history of India after independence. Full credit to Anna, but much more credit to the issue - "corruption", which attracts all section of people - young, old, men, women, rural urban. Such is an issue of corruption that no one would like to be left out of this movement. It seems a moral responsibility of all to support the movement. The atmosphere is such that those who are not supporting the movement are seen as anti-national. The nature of the issue has captured the imagination of masses. I am sure many of them do not even know the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Kamna: In your view, what is the reason behind the youth coming out in such a large number to support the 74-year-old activist?
Sanjay: There are various reasons. First, the issue of corruption attracts all, so the young are attracted to this movement. Also, the youth are a more worried lot compared to others since they have to find their livelihood and there is a problem of increasing unemployment in India.
Kamna: Do you find flaws in the tactics employed by Anna Hazare to force the government to pass Jan Lokpal Bill?
Sanjay: I support the cause, but certainly not the tactics employed by Anna Hazare. This is simply blackmailing the elected government by a few people taking help or finding strength by arousing sentiments amongst common people. When someone puts up some demand, he/she should be willing to negotiate, give space for dialogue and not just be rigid about one thing. It is important in this case, since this is about brining such an important legislation in the country. Legislation has its own process and it takes time, it can`t be done in such a hurry. There is a need for debate on such an important issue.
Kamna: Do you think the Congress-led UPA will be out of power in 2014 due to this movement?
Sanjay: 2014 is far away. If elections are held today, the present Congress-led UPA government would face huge difficulty. People`s anger is against the Central government. But I am not sure what may happen in 2014 if elections take place on time. The issue of corruption may not last that long, there may be new issues in 2014. Also, now elections have become much localised. Even in the national election, local issues dominate. There are hardly any national issues in elections now. While making choice, voters look at various issues, party, candidate, caste-community of the candidate (they would not say this but it happens). So, it is a little untimely to say anything about possible result of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.