Anna’s fight takes political flight

As the Winter Session of Parliament draws close, we already have an extremely chaotic situation vis-a-vis the Lokpal Bill and this has been generated by none other than social activist Anna Hazare and his team. At a stage where the Lokpal Bill is with the Standing Committee of Parliament, what is the necessity for Team Anna to target the Congress alone?

Can Team Anna answer as to what other political parties — the BJP, the Samajwadi Party, the RJD, the BSP, the AIADMK, the DMK, the JD(U), the Trinamul Congress and the Left — have done to pass Mr Hazare’s version of the Lokpal Bill?
Yet, only the Congress is being targeted, in Haryana, where Mr Hazare is asking the public not to vote for the Congress in the Hisar byelections. RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal — a member of Mr Hazare’s team — is also from Hisar and one cannot but wonder if he has been encouraged to flex his political muscle.
Let us take a look at the situation in Haryana. The state has 10 parliamentary constituencies. The major players in Haryana are the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), the BJP and the Congress.
The Congress won nine out of 10 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, losing Hisar to Bhajan Lal, fighting on Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) ticket, and was third behind the INLD.
The three main hopefuls for the seat this time are Kuldeep Bishnoi of the HJC, the son of Bhajan Lal; INLD’s Ajay Chautala, the son of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala; and three-time former MP Jai Prakash of the Congress.
Team Anna is not fighting corruption here but playing politics in the worst possible manner. The Congress may lose, but will this be because of the efforts of Mr Kejriwal and the team?
Team Anna’s decision to oppose only the Congress in Hisar was not right and political logic indicates that public reaction would be confused on the issue.
The next battleground is Uttar Pradesh, and here again the Congress is the target.
Is Mr Hazare’s fight a fight against corruption? Had this been the case then Mr Hazare and his team would have also targeted Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati who has invited them to fight elections, despite having shown her indifference to the Lokpal Bill.
If Team Anna targets only the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are scheduled for May 2012, this will appear to be political vendetta and Mr Hazare may lose credibility.
Mr Hazare ridiculed the rath yatra of BJP veteran L.K. Advani. So I wonder if he will attack all four main political parties on the corruption issue and ask the electorate to vote for independents candidates? I sincerely hope that better sense prevails.

The Congress speaks in many voices. The remarks of senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh that Mr Hazare is a mask of all anti-Congress parties and that the BJP intends to put up the social activist as its presidential candidate are absurd. Equally absurd is Mr Singh’s allegation that Mr Hazare has links with either the BJP or the RSS.
Mr Singh has known Mr Hazare for over a decade. His remarks have unnecessarily provoked Mr Hazare and given him an opportunity to address the aam aadmi and the nation in an eight-page letter written in Hindi.
The BJP is the main Opposition party and it would be delighted to see the Congress-led UPA being targeted as would other Opposition parties. This is a part of politics. But leaders need to realise that Mr Hazare is a one-man Army who is taking on the entire political system. He is posing a serious challenge to the Congress, the Opposition parties and even to his own team.
Instead of attacking Mr Hazare with baseless allegations, the Congress should have kept quiet.
Mr Hazare has rightly cautioned his followers and his team by distancing himself from Prashant Bhushan’s views on Kashmir. It will act as a deterrent for those who were stepping out of line and using the platform for airing personal views.
Political parties must handle Mr Hazare with extreme care as Mr Hazare has no personal interest and has no weakness that can be used against him. He is content with his 10x8 room in a temple in his village. He has no material needs, no immediate family and does not need Z-plus security, armoured cars or special aircraft and helicopters.
Assembly elections are drawing near in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and we will witness several tours and yatras being planned by various politicians.
Mr Advani is the first person to go on a 38-day-long Jan Chetna Yatra against corruption. The yatra will cover 12,000 kilometres in 23 states and four Union Territories.
It was good thinking on part of the BJP and JD(U) to let Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar flag off the yatra.
The Bihar government is at its height of popularity and Mr Kumar has led the state on the path of growth. Along with Gujarat, the BJP can flaunt effective governance in Bihar, too.
There will be critical analysis of the objective behind Mr Advani’s rath yatra and a possible conflict with Narendra Modi over the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Mr Modi will have many detractors within the BJP and this is inevitable in any political party, but I think Mr Advani will support him at the right time as much will depend on the sentiments prevailing in the BJP cadres.

The writer is a former Union minister

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