Real arena dares Anna

Politics is not a part-time profession. It is easy to stay at a distance and deliver sermons, but it takes courage to take the plunge and effect change.

Anna Hazare and Team India abandoned their indefinite fast as the Congress-led UPA-2 government refused to blink and give in to political blackmail laced with moral issues. All political parties will welcome the decision of Mr Hazare to enter the political arena, and I think Team Anna may find this rather tricky, as they are used to taking the public’s support for granted.

The team had assumed to be leaders of the civil society without any form of electoral politics. It is indeed sad that within a year Mr Hazare has gone from “hero to zero”, and while his team can play the blame game, their qualities of head and heart were neither matched by their offensive language nor by their actions over a period of time. Public support for their movement is no longer visible and while the issue of corruption, criminality and extortion causes concerns, no one looks forward to anarchy and chaos.
Mr Hazare has said he will tour the country and influence the public. It is a logical next step, as politics cannot be conducted on Facebook or Twitter or on a few indulgent TV networks. Team Anna have had a free ride, having evoked a great deal of support in their initial surge, and there is nothing very surprising about it. In any mass movement, a great number of retired and unemployed politicians, bureaucrats and others are attracted but that does not mean they will be interested in a political struggle over a protracted period of time. Most of the eminent followers will support a “moral crusade” as this involves little hardship. But the time for that crusade is over.
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev may well enter the election arena, or he may support the BJP. He has toured the country extensively for many years and has the crowds. But he is a businessman, and no one really knows the colour of his money — is it white, black, yellow or purple? His financial matters are already under investigation, and he looks too vulnerable to stand a full financial scrutiny.
Team Anna has attracted some people with talent and a future. Aamir Khan, who appeared on stage alongside Mr Hazare during the latter’s fast last year, has a very good image matched by competence and ability, and it would be nice to see him enter the election arena and test his public support. Khan’s television show, Satyamev Jayate, raised social issues and was expected to be a great success but the show’s impact seems limited. Anupam Kher is another activist from Bollywood. Kher has often referred to the issues in his home state, Jammu and Kashmir and it is sad that many in the minority Hindu community have become refugees in their own country twice within a space of 50 years. He could test the electoral waters with Team Anna in Jammu. And then we have Chetan Bhagat, whose books, though, I must confess I have not read. But if Salman Rushdie has marked him for special attention even in a negative way, the young man must have talent and ability. He could also fight an election and match his words with political deeds. Politics is not a part-time profession. It is easy to stay at a distance from politics and deliver sermons, but it takes courage to take the plunge and effect change.
The need of the hour is not to destroy our democratic institutions but to deliver good and effective governance. If, for example, Sheila Dikshit in New Delhi, Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Narendra Modi in Gujarat and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh can each run a good government why cannot this be done in other states? UPA-1 did well and presented a positive front in 2009 and was rewarded with a positive verdict, but UPA-2 frittered away the advantage and suffered from the mid-term blues. It still has 18 months to go before the general elections, and reputations can be built or destroyed many times in the available time. The political system today has more talents than ever before, and it’s not as if we are faced with a gloom and doom scenario.
Times have changed, and we all have to change the way we look at elections and issues. While religion and caste will play a decisive role, there will also be a premium on good governance. We have seen UPA-2 secure a positive verdict and every chief minister cutting across party lines who has won a second or third term is a political superstar! Political battles are inevitable in a vibrant elective democracy and we will see a series of hard fought elections. The Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections will give everyone an opportunity to show their political skills.
I am not going to make any political predictions till we see the results in Gujarat Assembly elections later this year. As I see it the Congress, the BJP and the regional parties all have an equal chance ahead. After the flip-flops of the regional parties in the presidential election we have to watch trends very carefully. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamul Congress did the right thing, and the Congress-Trinamul Congress alliance at the Centre will stay. For that matter the Nationalist Congress Party also did the right thing with regard to the Congress. NCP chief Sharad Pawar delivered to the senior ally his message for the future. The Congress did well, the BJP recovered and the regional parties kept their powder dry and we will see some activity only after the Gujarat Assembly elections are over at the end of 2012.
We have much to celebrate in the Olympics. It’s good to see India participating in several events. Anyone who represents his country at this level is always a winner. And it’s good to see our cricket team win the series 4-1 in Sri Lanka, where Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina consolidated their positions while Gautam Gambhir and M.S. Dhoni showed their class. Now, we look forward to the talented Yuvraj Singh making his comeback. Surely, we have a winning team for the future.

The writer is a former Union minister

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