Anna and Hazare-ism are here to stay
Arvind Kejriwal underlined that India did not have participatory democracy.
New Delhi: The fast is over. The fight is not.
As Team Anna and tens of thousands celebrated on Sunday after Anna Hazare broke his hunger strike for strong anti-corruption legislation, it was clear that more battles are around the corner. Hazare himself and his confidants said in speeches at the Ramlila ground that people should brace themselves for more such campaigns revolving around issues ranging from corruption to governance.
And with Team Anna proving the potency of "People Power", it will only be tempting to embrace the strategy again and again.
For the starter, the 74-year-old Hazare declared before sipping coconut water laced with honey that only half the battle had been won in the war for a corruption-free India. He told the tens of thousands at the sprawling ground that he was only suspending his fast, not ending it, and that he would fight on until an effective Lokpal bill became a reality.
He added that Indians needed the right to recall elected representatives -- MPs and legislators. He also called for sweeping electoral reforms.
Arvind Kejriwal, Team Anna`s most astute strategist, also underlined that India did not have participatory democracy.
He said the Anna fast and the nationwide campaign for an effective Lokpal bill was the first instance when people at large became associated with the framing of legislation.
Yes, Parliament is supreme, he agreed, but quickly added that people were more important than any legislature.
The message was not lost on the government.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid, one of the five ministers who held extensive talks with Hazare and his team both before and during the fast, said civil society would henceforth be involved in law making.
Team Anna is also likely to keep up the pressure on the government so that the principles of the Jan Lokpal Bill they have prepared do not get diluted over time. Their insistence on fighting it out until their three main demands were met virtually brought the Congress-led government to its knees.
In the process, a government which at one time seemed dismissive of Team Anna was forced to bow to Hazare amid fears that his dragging protest could lead to terrible consequences.
The political class is unlikely to give in each time. But it is equally true that it will not find it easy to brush aside civil society on any issue, irrespective of who it is led by.
Hazare`s advantages are his credentials, his austere living and his previous battles with the corrupt of all hues, all of which have combined to give him a charismatic pan-India appeal.
His strategy of resorting to hunger strike -- a weapon Mahatma Gandhi used with devastating effect against the British -- only helped him draw massive crowds.
And Team Anna turned out to be politically more suave than some of the politicians who dealt with them.
All this means one thing: be ready for further faceoffs between the government and civil society. Anna and Hazare-ism are here to stay.