Find me a preacher, and I’ll show you a fraud

Ambition is fine thing, but misplaced ambition? Well, in the case of Anna Hazare, the truth’s out. And it ain’t pretty!

Anna, despite his trademark Mickey Mouse whine and his simplistic platitudes that put the UPA government on notice, is no Jayaprakash Narayan, not even an Ela Bhatt let alone Maharashtra’s other self-styled Mahatma, the late Baba Amte. But, can he become one?

In choosing to shed his apolitical avatar and get into the skin of the politician, he ends whatever little illusions one had about him. And if he ends up punching well above his rapidly diminishing weight, physically and metaphorically, he will have no-one but himself to blame. The power — of the unadulterated and the pure — that he wielded in staying determinedly above the fray may have already been weakened when he frittered away public trust with one misplaced ‘fast unto death’ after another.

No question, he made a splash. Ubiquitous Gandhi topi in place, dhoti fluttering, he gobbled up column centimeters of precious newsprint, dominated hours of television screen time, and grabbed public attention. If nothing else, the man from Ralegan Siddi made everyone sit up and take notice. But here’s what Anna didn’t factor in. Boredom. It’s the kiss of death. The dwindling crowds at Jantar Mantar the second time over, underscore the maxim that public memory is short. And public tolerance for any spectacle unless it continues to titillate, is shorter still. It was only when he held forth during, before or after a fast, that anyone paid any attention.

For all that, it must be said, he won a residual, if grudging respect for a David fighting relentlessly against a Goliath. Except, one must ask, what did he achieve? Beyond becoming the pivot, the focal point around which the anger of the young, educated middle-class’ wannabees against the entire breed of politician, coalesced? And as quickly dissipated..

Beyond showing both the Congress and the BJP and the so-called Third Front to be, that the time for complacency was over, that there was room for a fresh, new apolitical voice? Beyond alerting the men and women he had in his gun-sights that it was time for them to clean up their act, cover up their tracks? Beyond giving the ‘guilty 14’ two full years to set up every road-block necessary to stall if not kill the idea of a Jan Lokpal. (Karnataka has written the book on how to stop a Lokayukta from being appointed. Perhaps Anna, who has so far, never criticised the saffronists, could check out namma BJP government’s extremely effective stalling manouvre!)

All in all, a disappointment! An Anna aandhi that could have swept through the countryside as Jayaprakash Narayan did in my youth, timed just before the elections would have everyone, young and old, caught up with the heady feeling that they could dislodge a sitting government.

What is he, the Congress’ fifth column? No, scratch that. In fact the opposite is truer. Congress’ legal eagles like Salman Khursheed and Kapil Sibal used the twin weapons of silence and obfuscation to reduce his aides, the incomparable Arvind Kejriwal, Bhushan junior and Kiran Bedi (in desperate, urgent need of a fashion and speech makeover) to a blubbering mass of anger and loathing. Not a pleasant sight, and a turn-off for many. And that’s probably why, boxed into a corner, this final ‘fast unto death’ did not evoke the same sweeping, all encompassing sympathy that had once been his USP. Now with a real live general in V K Singh, a man of infinite contradictions, a general in search of an army, Team Anna once again believes it has found its leader, a fresh lease of life until 2014. Hmm!

As the saying goes, ‘an archer cannot hit the bullseye if he doesn’t know what the goal is.’ So, what does Anna want? Exactly what we do – clean, honest governance delivered by men and women whom we can trust to do the right thing. That the system allows the roaches to creep through is another matter. To blame the government in situ, for all the ills that plague our polity and our society is equally misplaced. More so, when the end is achieved by upending society as we know it. Revolution. I am not sure at all, that in an India that is more than just a collection of Ralegan Siddhis, I’m ready to see everything remade in Anna’s image.

Anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the mind. Hence, the war on the media which has taken off its rose tinted spectacles. And if rage was the leitmotif of Anna’s popular movement, the newfound embrace of a political route once they had discovered that to beat the system, one needed to run a sustained, no-frills campaign against all that is polluted and tainted, and become the insider, join the system, requires a far savvier strategy. Not the blunt instrument of rhetoric.

Taking the law into your own hands is all too easy. Hitler is the easiest metaphor. And the Maoists and the Marxists come closer still. The spillover is here, in coastal Dakshina Kannada where a 50 strong mob beat up our daughters, bashed up our sons but remain beyond the reach of the law because not being habitual offenders they cannot be prosecuted under the Goonda Act. What’s more shameful is that they are defended by the ministers who come from that area, clearly afraid to go against the writ of the puritanical RSS offshoots that call the shots here. And this is Mangalore, long-time education hub. Not Nowshera, Mazar-e-Sharif or Mali.

What exactly do they have against women wearing western garb or dressing up for a party? Did Capt Lakshmi Sehgal not wear pants when she went to battle? And the state National Commission for Women chairperson has the gall to ask why the young women who were at the homestay changed from their uniforms to party clothes! As if that was the crime, when the real offense was committed by men gathered by one lumpen element who exhorted them to bash up women because they were having fun!

Let’s remind the NCW chief that telling anyone what they should wear is an infringement of that person’s lawful rights in the world’s most celebrated democracy. Liquor may or may not have been served. Even if it were, what right does anyone have to beat women up because they were having a glass or two. Is drinking alcohol against the law? Does no BJP politician have a drink? I remember visiting the home of the president of a major party and finding that all manner of hooch was being served. Openly. And if Daskhina Kannada is the land of the pure, what was one of the ministers from the district doing, watching porn when the assembly was in session. In my book, that’s worse than drinking.

One law for you, and one law for me? The sanctimonious duplicity, exposed for all to see. Which is why, just for a moment, Anna Hazare had me going, giving me hope that maybe, just maybe he would be the game-changer we’ve all been waiting for. The messiah.

But as I’ve always held, show me a preacher, and I’ll show you a fraud.

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