The misadventures of Anna and his men
With Team Anna’s U-turn from their “anshan” approach to weeding out corruption, a new epoch is visible in Indian politics, and the electoral battle for the 16th Lok Sabha is bound to be an interesting event. Like the UPA-1, the Anna Hazare movement also started with a big bang, thanks to media activism, eventually to take a steady dive into oblivion as the movement’s second phase failed to elicit both media enthusiasm and public warmth.
Fortuitously, sense dawned upon Team Anna, who rightly perceived the unyielding government mood and fast receding public espousal and decided to embark on political course in their endeavour to carve a forthright society in India.
The Anna exercise has proved that emulating Gandhi is not as easy a task as everyone is made to believe. It requires immense dedication, sacrifice and patience to reach the conscience of the masses. Unfortunately, the core Team Anna includes persons who believe in quick results, that too, of their choice! In fact, the very team is responsible for bringing down the image of the movement through their irresponsible utterances and postures projecting themselves as puritans above everyone else in society, including parliamentarians who, in their imagination, are the most unscrupulous beings.
It is an open secret that corruption is entrenched in the bone and marrow of our society, and legislations and movements are mere symptomatic solutions to temporarily arrest its further escalation. What is required is a persistent all-inclusive collective struggle against the menace in order to retune our mindset in that direction. In the prevalent scenario, Anna Hazare’s decision to work out a new political alternative to bring in people of integrity and honesty in the ensuing Lok Sabha in order to accomplish his mission is seemingly an appropriate gesture. Nevertheless, who will ensure that the new political organisation will remain immune to
corruption? Independent India witnessed a mushroom growth of self-styled symbols of virtue in the form of political parties, dals, sanghs, jamaats and senas that, in due course of time, turned victims of many a vice. Can Team Anna convert their single-agenda movement into a political force needed to cope with multifarious issues confronting the nation? The Congress could successfully do so primarily because of the all-inclusive democratic-secular legacies it had inherited from the anti-colonial movement and established itself as an umbrella organisation sheltering diverse philosophical flairs akin to its fundamental ideology. Although a number of factions came out of the Congress fold and formed organisations to politically challenge the Congress, none of them could emerge with a concrete ideological alternative to turn into a formidable force to confront the Congress at the national level. On the contrary, many of them re-entered the parent party or extended outside support to it. A recent example is the Praja Rajyam Party in Andhra Pradesh, which the regional cine hero Chiranjeevi floated with much fanfare as an alternative to the Congress and Telugu Desam parties in the state. In a short span of one year, he merged the nascent organisation with
the Congress, making colossal personal gains, including a smooth entry into the Rajya Sabha.
A political alternative at the national level is a dire need of the day. However, given the non-serious, non-committal and callous nature of our political actors coupled with the element of personal greed, the ideal political alternative Mr Hazare is contemplating with his group of four appears a near impossible proposition. The stability and coherence of any political institution primarily depends on how it is formed. Stable political organisations are not created in a vacuum nor are they
wrought overnight externally; they gradually grow and evolve into enduring forces under the philosophical guidance and patronage of visionary leaders. Team Anna completely lacks that requisite leadership and also the political acumen essential to mobilise sane elements of political integrity. Any effort at forging a political entity, at this juncture, with the present vanguard will only end up with an eclectic conglomerate of the disgruntled rather than a political party. Already signals of dissent are evident within the Anna fold against the proposed adventure of the team. Equally clear is the team motto that their crusade is basically directed against the “corrupt” UPA-2 government led by the Congress rather than corruption per se.
None can dispute the spirit and intention with which Mr Hazare launched his move to sensitise the masses about the menace of rising corruption and the need for a comprehensive Lokpal. A large segment of society supported Mr Hazare in his cause, compelling the government to take up the issue on priority basis. That in itself was a great victory for Mr Hazare. His team, instead of waiting to watch the government moves on the final Lokpal outcome, resorted to cashing in on the public space that Mr Hazare garnered for their own ulterior
political motives, thus turning the latest “anshan” into a total flop and bringing disgrace to Mr Hazare’s image. One may well imagine where Mr Hazare will be and what shape his ideal political alternative will acquire if the present team is allowed to convert the movement into a political party.
The writer is a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University