Team Anna in politics; will it work?

Deepak Nagpal

So, India is about to get a new political party (or political front) with Team Anna seeking people’s views on providing a political alternative, possibly by entering politics.

Although Anna Hazare is yet to clearly spell out whether his team will join politics or support clean candidates and act as a pressure group, many are terming the move a logical next step forward for Team Anna.

But what has brought about this change of thought? After all, until recently Team Anna was steadfastly against entering politics.

To find the answers we need not go into the past. The latest round of indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar in the heart of national capital had made some points amply clear. First, the government is in no mood to talk to them any further. Second, the hunger strike was not going to bring in a Lokpal or for that matter an SIT against corrupt ministers despite some of the fasting members being close to being hospitalised without the fast yielding any result.

Could Team Anna have gone ahead with the fast for some more days? No! And that is why, 23 eminent personalities including former Army chief Gen (Retd) VK Singh and ex-CEC JM Lyngdoh Thursday wrote a letter to Team Anna, appealing to them to call off their fast and provide a political alternative.

Clearly, the letter was a carefully calibrated exit route for Team Anna, which was meant to save them from the ignominy of losing the high-stake battle without any gains.

As of now, Team Anna has said they are ready to enter politics and provide a political alternative if the nation wishes them to. And they have sought the people’s response in two days through the Internet, on phone and by other means.

But, is Team Anna – by calling off their fast at 5 pm on Friday and possibly announcing their move to join politics – emerging victorious or defeated?

It would not be fair to call it a defeat as they are changing their approach and choosing a way forward to achieve their goal of Lokpal, in the wake of an ‘arrogant’ government choosing to ignore them this time around. Unlike previous agitations, no government representative contacted them for public or back channel talks during the last nine days.

It is the same government which, in the words of Team Anna, has ditched them on its promise of bringing a strong Lokpal and tackling corruption. In fact, even the Opposition is not supporting them explicitly now following the team’s tirade against the political class in general.

For them, the hope of giving shape to Lokpal with the help of the current political establishment had become nil. The only two options left for the anti-corruption group were – end the movement and fade away or shift gears and join politics.

Embracing politics is what Team Anna seems to have chosen, for now. And this appears to be the most logical next step forward. In fact, the move could have been announced even before the latest round of fast as Team Anna was well aware of the government’s intentions, and there was no expectation of a repeat of government actions of last April or August. There was no need to put at risk the lives of Arvind Kejriwal, Gopal Rai and Manish Sisodia.

Probably, Team Anna was using the latest protest as a stepping stone towards politics, after initially rejecting the move categorically.

In a democracy like India, if the government is not willing to listen to people, then the best way forward is to make oneself heard is through elections – either by voting for alternative candidates or contesting elections.

Team Anna is believed to have the mass support to form a national political party and fight elections, but do they have the resources needed to run a political campaign? But the bigger question is: Will the support turn into votes in elections? Anna Hazare himself has said that voters in India get easily swayed by money and liquor.

Would joining politics yield results for Team Anna? At the moment, the answer is at best ambiguous.

By just forming a political party and contesting elections, Team Anna would not be able to bring about the change. They would need to win not just elections but also secure majority to push forward their agenda in Parliament.

As the UPA has shown, a coalition government is as good as dud when it comes to taking important policy decisions.

Further, with every political party considered to be deep-rooted in corruption, will any political group come forward to support Team Anna and their agenda? Remember, the same people would be in Parliament post 2014 polls whom Team Anna members had described as ‘looters, rapists and dacoits’.

Another important point to be considered is: does Team Anna have candidates who can win elections? Will the ‘clean’ and ‘honest’ people supporting Team Anna would be willing to contest elections? Say, for example, Gen (Retd) VK Singh, JM Lyngdoh etc. Lyngdoh has already said that he has no intention of jumping into politics.

But, today’s developments augur well for the Indian polity. After having failed to make the government bring in long-pending Lokpal through non-violent protests, Team Anna is joining politics (possibly) and providing an alternative to voters most of whom appear to be angry with the current lot but are helpless in bringing about change.

A new political group with possibly clean candidates will provide to voters an alternative that aims to root out corruption and bring about change – the much needed change. Whether that will happen or not and whether it will be true sense remains to be seen.


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