'A new Gandhi' shakes India: UK media on Anna



`A new Gandhi` shakes India: UK media on Anna 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 support.

"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, populist strategy."

The daily said at every turn, the organisers of his campaign have been aided by the "blundering of the ruling Congress Party".

"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."

PTI