Can Anna’s wisdom fill the cracks?

I had written last week that it was a serious error for Team Anna to single out and target the Congress during the Hisar byelection and that few would attribute the defeat of the Congress to Anna Hazare.
The result of the Haryana byelection was on expected lines and all three parties in the fray had put their best foot forward. Two important trends emerge out of this contest and a new alliance between Kuldeep Bishnoi and the BJP will pose a challenge to the Congress and the INLD. The BSP will also try to get a foothold in Haryana.

It is too early to comment on future trends but the Congress — with several factions — will be under pressure as the influence of the INLD is growing in the state.
Team Anna continues to dominate the media and news reports of internal conflicts and resignations add to this confusion. This was not unexpected as Team Anna strayed into the political arena. If one throws a few punches at others then s/he should be ready to receive a few in return.
Mr Hazare’s decision to go on a maun vrat is wise. He was surrounded by an eclectic crowd with strong views on issues ranging from Kashmir to Naxalism and the Gujarat riots. Lately, he has been embarrassed by his team’s public expressions of differences. Now the onus is on Mr Hazare to find a magic formula to first muster and then retain a civil society team devoid of political or material needs. But this is not easy.
Mr Hazare is a very shrewd judge of public opinion and he, more than anyone else, would have noticed the negative vibes in dealing with issues beyond the Lokpal Bill and corruption.
Cracks have widened in Team Anna with Justice Santosh Hegde distancing himself from the team, saying Kiran Bedi was wrong if she had not informed her hosts of inflated travel bills. Justice Hegde is reportedly upset over the conduct of some of the members of Team Anna. He has made it clear that he is with Team Anna only on the issue of corruption and that he has his own views on all other issues, including Kashmir and Arvind Kejriwal’s comments on the Congress.
Mr Hazare is an honest man and so is Justice Reddy but can this principle be extended to the many activists who support Mr Hazare and wear the “Anna cap”?
We are all well aware of the liabilities in the political system and the weakness in all the three wings of governance, but is civil society any better? Can all those who play the blame game apply the same system of scrutiny to their activities?
After the Hisar byelection, as we now approach the Winter Session of Parliament the focus will shift to the Lokpal Bill. Hopefully, by this time the UPA-2 government would have successfully resolved the issue with the help of the Opposition parties.
Once the matter is under active consideration of the House then the familiar pattern of time-bound ultimatum should not apply. Also, we should remember the pattern that successfully emerged in the passage of the Right to Information Act. I do not believe that any form of confrontation is a viable option for the Congress or for Team Anna. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already written to Mr Hazare and expressed his intention of having a strong Lokpal Bill.

Preparations for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections have already started as all the main parties have finalised their basics. It is now time to move forward with the campaign.
The BSP, over the past year, has already stopped contesting the byelections to concentrate on the Assembly elections. BSP chief and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati is well prepared for the battle and will be challenged by the Congress. Also, the Samajwadi Party (SP) is in recovery mode as party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav draw good crowds. With the BJP running fourth we are looking at very tough elections.
Conventional wisdom on poll trends indicates a “hung election” as neither the BSP, the SP nor the Congress look like getting near 200 seats.
But we may be in for a surprise. In the initial stages all three parties will exhibit confidence and show that they have the support of the public. But trends will surface only when the main electoral campaign begins.
The Uttar Pradesh elections will indicate whether UPA-2 will complete its full term, till 2014. The results will also open a window to the future on the likely combinations at the Centre in 2014.
The public is always ahead of the political parties and I wonder what surprises are in store for all of us in this historic battle. The Congress and the UPA-2 look under siege, but a good performance in Uttar Pradesh will change several equations.
I still think that the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, will provide a stiff challenge to the BSP and the SP. The lack of a simple majority for the BSP can open up several possibilities and combinations; much will depend on the seats won by each of the three main parties and the BJP. We could see a BSP-BJP or a Congress-SP alliance as anything is possible in an era of coalitions.

The writer is a former Union minister

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