Ritesh K Srivastava
The anti-corruption movement started by India’s biggest activist Anna Hazare has charged up the whole nation with enormous public support pouring in from every nook and corner in favour of his agitation for a strong Lokpal Bill.
The dramatic developments in the past two days have exposed the true colour of the UPA government, which since the very beginning, only seemed interested in foiling Anna’s plans to go on an indefinite fast from August 16 and thwarting the issue.
The septuagenarian crusader, even when he actually did nothing (or shall I say, he was not allowed to hold his fast-unto-death by Delhi Police), brought the political establishment in Delhi to a standstill.
By stopping Anna Hazare from holding his indefinite fast and by arresting him, the UPA government had committed a huge political blunder and made itself vulnerable to harsh criticism that it is functioning in an autocratic manner.
Clearly, the UPA crisis managers (with their arrogance hangover) have fallen flat every time they have tried to tame the Anna storm, the decisions taken by the government with respect to Anna’s agitation have backfired, and under growing pressure, it has now opened doors for parleys.
The government must have thought that by arresting Hazare and lodging him in jail, his movement would die out and Team Anna would lose the moral high ground due to declining public support, to press for their own version of the Lokpal Bill.
However, it was proved wrong, when thousands of citizens, especially the nation’s youth, took to streets, citizens boycott their work to express solidarity with the 74-year-old frail man from a nondescript Maharashtra village waging a war not for himself, but for the whole society.
It is strange that the same government, which had been projecting Anna Hazare and his key associates as a cluster of people trying to sabotage a democratically-elected government, is now extending an olive branch by allowing him to continue his agitation.
As his August 16 deadline for holding a fast approached, the government’s attack on Team Anna escalated and the noted Gandhian and his Lokpal movement was targeted both on personal and constitutional grounds.
Making things worse for the ruling side, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari accused Hazare of being “seeped neck-deep in corruption from head to toe”.
The Congress spokesperson’s baseless utterance is indicative of the growing desperation in the camp to malign Hazare, his associates, and scuttle the fierce campaign they are spearheading.
What is further indicative of Congress’ growing frustration, Tiwari alleged that a trust headed by Anna was indicted by 2005 the Sawant Commission of having spent Rs 2.20 lakh on a birthday bash for him. This is laughable, particularly, in view of facts that a large number of Congress leaders are today under scanner over serious corruption charges running into numbers of thousands of crores.
Moreover, Tiwari probably forgot that Anna was later cleared of all charges of corruption by a subsequent task force constituted to probe the truth. Otherwise, he would not have put Anna in the league of his corrupt partymen.
Another instance, where Home Minister P Chidambaram shifted the blame for arresting Anna and his supporters on Delhi Police and pleaded total ignorance about his exact location, reflects how the government made attempts to mislead the nation.
One would hardly believe Chidambaram telling a press conference that he didn’t know where Anna was kept. Mr Chidambaram, you are a Home Minister and Delhi Police reports to your Ministry. So no one would buy your argument that you were not aware about various moves taken by Delhi Police.
Interestingly, having failed in their plans to scuttle Anna’s drive, the “formidable” trio of Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram and Ambika Soni then took the job of infusing government’s fear among the public against joining Anna’s drive.
When Congress’ personal attack on Anna’s integrity failed to yield any concrete results, the government raised constitutional objections to his agitation and the Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by the civil society.
Hazare has been accused of blackmailing the government, dictating terms and usurping the rights of parliamentarians.
It was projected that Hazare’s movement would create serious law and order problems and that he was challenging the constitutional sovereignty and foundations of democracy.
However, in the process, the Congress government forgot that some five-six decades back its own leaders including Mahatama Gandhi, Jawahlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Madan Mohan Malviya and many more showed the true strength of democracy to the mighty British regime through non-violent means and civil disobedience movement.
The same is being repeated in 2011 but the actors have changed now. It is Anna, who has taken a centrestage in the country’s fight against corruption and it’s the Congress government, which is at the receiving end.
The government should keep in mind that Anna does not have any business interest, he is neither a politician nor an influential film star, but still millions of Indians are willing to die for him.
This is because of the trust, which he has built in all these years by raising the core issues related to common man, and due to the inner strength of his character, which enables him to face extreme hardship.
Agreed that no one can challenge authority of Parliament, which is supreme and has the absolute powers to make laws and amend the Constitution. So in light of this fact, Team Anna should welcome Prime Minister’s invitation for discussions on all issues of conflicts to end the deadlock over the Lokpal Bill.
But for that, the government should take the Opposition as well as the civil society on board to ensure that there remain no loose ends, no loopholes for the corrupt to evade justice.
As of now, no one really knows, what would really be the outcome of Anna’s movement, what would we gain or what would be the shape of final Lokpal, but Anna’s movement has surely awakened Indians about their fundamental rights, united them for a noble cause and shown the world the true strength of democracy.
People of my generation have not seen mass movements led by Gandhi or Nehru. We have read about them in history books and drawn inspiration from their heroic tales. Today, we have an opportunity be a part of the new August Revolution spearheaded by Anna Hazare, aimed at making India a corruption free society. Let’s grab that chance.