Is Anna heading for ‘footnotes’?

Anna Hazare is trying to play the role of a political bagpiper.

DN Singh

The relative ease with which Anna Hazare has taken the plunge into the campaign against the Congress, he has, wittingly or otherwise, tried to enter into a proscenium of murkier complexities which the man from Ralegaon Siddhi can hardly afford to get along with. No doubt his recent sloganeering for vigilantism has to some extent enriched the essence of democratic awareness but, the way he has thrown his hat into the electoral politics might drift his unique mission against corruption away from its goal. And, in fact, it has already done so.

For an anti-corruption crusader who enjoyed the centrestage for over two months, his avowed intentions should not have been allowed to be blended with politics which Anna now does by taking sides and trying to separate one party from the other, i.e. the BJP. Whereas, his mission should have been to launch a campaign against the corrupt political system, and leave the rest for the people to decide. But, he has tried to play the role of a political bagpiper. By targeting the Congress alone, not only has he gone political but by doing so, he has run the risk of engulfing his entire support base and his supporters in a kind of storm which can sweep the movement into disarray.

Never mind what the uninformed or informed critics, in the recent past, said about him, but his silent sojourn in his village was more powerful than his recent decision to campaign. Despite his lack of erudition and academic depth, the little man from Maharashtra had become a feature for the intellectual pantheon comprising of journalists, social activists and intellectuals. While considering him and his movement an interesting topic, the intelligentsia, of course, showed the grudging willingness to grant him an iconic status. And for a beleaguered ruling establishment at the Centre, Anna still remains an enigma. But his recent feat of getting into campaigning was a kind of self-inflicted eroding act that might leave a lasting blot on his halo.

If media reports are anything to go by, there are some differences within the Anna camp, which would obviously be a disgusting piece of news for the electorate that has already become very cynical. And now, in this newfound political role, Anna has pushed himself to the centre of an extremely controversial platform based purely on politics. In other words, he is trying to breach the moral territory he himself had drawn.

On one side Anna said that unless the UPA passes the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Winter Session of Parliament, he would again raise the banner of protest, and at the same time, he is in a haste to jump into the mess of political bandwagon donning the garb of a father to an errant child. Further, his penchant for sounding deadlines has somehow not augured well with his image.

His campaign at Hisar has squarely hampered the assumption about his second preparedness to fight out the menace of corruption and his goodwill is in danger of being perceived as bit overrated and stunted. Anna knows that corruption is not merely limited to the Congress or its allies. It is not fair for either Anna or his followers to be engulfed in issues like to vote for whom. Given the image he had earned and the frenzied mass support during his Ramlila Maidan `anshan`, it is inconceivable that the same people are now acting like a campaign brigade singling out one party.

It is an undisputable fact that the UPA has lost its moral legitimacy to claim itself as a clean government after exposures of huge embezzlements, be it 2G or CWG or Adarsh and so on, but that has not obliterated its political legitimacy.

In offering moral assistance to one section of the political spectrum, while he is exercising the inalienable right of any other political activist, Anna is losing out as a crusader against corruption by upholding Jan Lokpal Bill as the only panacea to stem the rot. He is putting the full weight of his hard-earned reputation behind one accused and against the other.

It clearly suggests that a wholesome fighter against corruption no longer needs to maintain a healthy detachment between unbiased crusade and political mentoring. It shows his willingness to swim against the tide of a mass-based consensus that had distinguished his fight from others in the recent past. If Anna is picking the wrong option out of personal choice or out of over-enthusiasm for a further bigger image, there is a fear that his movement may get confined to the footnotes.

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