London: Likening the eruption of anti-graft
crusader Anna Hazare on the Indian scene to the advent of "a
new Gandhi," the British media on Wednesday described his campaign as
"stunningly successful" but warned against creation of a
Superman-like authority to check corruption.
"A new 'Gandhi' shakes India", screamed the headline of
The Telegraph as it called Hazare the "born-again" Gandhian,
who has been receiving wide publicity in the local media here.
The 73-year-old Gandhian's travails were splashed in
almost all the British papers.
"Stunningly successful campaign of Anna Hazare, the
born-again Gandhian who has tied up the government in knots
with his hunger strikes," is what The Telegraph said in a long
report written by author Patrick French, who also took a dig
at the prevalent Indian judicial, political and social system.
However, the article said Hazare's success will make it
increasingly difficult to argue against proposals which would,
"in practice, create yet another layer of government in a
country that has too much bureaucracy, and would create a body
armed with the kind of powers over the lives of individuals
that have previously only been given to Superman."
French lost no words in attacking the UPA-led government
for its handling of the situation.
He said Hazare and his "cohorts" have sought to impose
their programme on the government, buoyed by noisy public
"This bizarre situation where elected representatives
started to bow to the demands of a self-appointed saint ? has
depended only partially on the elderly Gandhian's canny,
The daily said at every turn, the organisers of his
campaign have been aided by the "blundering of the ruling
"Their response has been a masterclass in ineptitude.
First, they allowed Hazare and his appointees from 'civil
society' to determine the proposed shape of new legislation.
Then they quarrelled with him as he began negotiating with
senior ministers; then they made concessions; then he
announced he would go on another hunger strike if further
demands were not met.
"Through all this, the government led by the 78-year-old
bureaucrat-turned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has failed in
even the most basic aspects of public and media relations.
They have not faced down the more preposterous aspects of
Hazare's campaign," the daily said.
Sonia Gandhi, "the ultimate leader of the Congress
Party", has been "in hospital in the United States," it said.
"The opposition BJP has been able to direct the debate
over corruption, backing Hazare when and where it suits them,
and calling the Congress leaderless."
The Guardian report on Hazare's agitation said that his
fight for change has inspired millions of Indians.
It had a write-up by Indian author Chetan Bhagat who said
the arrest of Hazare has brought people from all walks of life
together to demand "an end to the old ways".
"Archaic laws, designed for autocratic, colonial rulers
with no accountability (yes, blame the British for everything)
have been retained and abused to the hilt by the current
politicians. Power talks; truth and justice are often crushed.
We remain a poor country, despite having world-class talent
and ample natural resources," Bhagat wrote.
The Guardian also carried a profile of Hazare who, the
daily said, has caused political heads to roll after previous
anti-corruption campaigns. It also wrote about previous
agitations undertaken by the Hazare.
The Daily Mail focused on Hazare's supporters, saying
"tens of thousands come out in support for hunger-striking
Indian crusader christened 'the new Gandhi'."
The Independent said Hazare was a self-styled Gandhian
activist who had earlier this year brought part of Delhi and
other major Indian cities to a halt with his protests.
The Telegraph said Hazare's message is simple and that he
is an elderly ex-soldier, an ascetic and a disciplinarian.
"His dress is styled after Mahatma Gandhi. He dislikes
alcohol, cable television, the chewing of paan and the eating
of meat indeed when three men from his village appeared
drunk, he tied them to a temple pillar and flogged them with
his army belt. To his younger supporters, his old-fashioned,
undemocratic simplicity is attractive."
First Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 19:15