Millennium Post

Losing the way

Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, K S Sudarshan, was not the only one to lose his way while out on a morning walk last week. Team Anna, too, had the same unnerving experience when it realised that its frequently trodden path of going on hunger strikes was actually leading it nowhere.

Ever since the anti-corruption movement began to show signs of fizzling out from its flop show in Mumbai in December last year, the team has been trying out various means of resuscitation. Its last attempt was to demand the setting up of a special investigation team to probe the corruption charges against 14 central ministers and the newly elected president Pranab Mukherjee.

But, not only did the crowds fail to turn up in the kind of gargantuan numbers, which Hazare had become used to in the summer of 2011 in Delhi, the government, too, no longer seemed interested in negotiations as it was during the earlier instance when it had set up a joint committee on the Lokpal bill comprising Anna and Co and central ministers.

Given these setbacks, Team Anna evidently had no option but to take the escape route provided by the letter sent of several ‘eminent’ persons, including a former team member, Justice Santosh Hegde, and an ardent supporter, film star Anupam Kher, to call off the fasts and embark on hard core politics.

The reasons for the humiliating retreat are not far to seek. For a start, just as all adolescents dream of single-handedly changing the world, Team Anna convinced itself that by targeting the government’s weakest point – the charge of corruption – it had found a surefire mantra of bringing it to its knees.

If the government itself seemed at a loss as to how to deal with the wide support which the septuagenarian crusader initially attracted, it was because it had no credible answer to the charge as to why the Lokpal bill could not be passed for the last four decades unless the political class, and not the ruling parties alone, did not want their record of sleaze to be investigated by an independent agency.

Prime facie, Team Anna had a cast-iron case. But, the mistake it made was to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. For this off-putting stance, it was the team members rather than Hazare himself who were responsible, for they strutted about as if they were angels descended from the heavens to cleanse the Augean stables of the government.

Even if a cause is just, it can be undermined by the pomposity and self-righteousness of its champions. This was what happened to the movement. Even if large sections of the people were persuaded by Team Anna’s allegations about the government being knee-deep in corruption and unwilling to eradicate it, they were offended by the arrogant tone of the self-appointed crusaders and their calls for changing the existing system – something that the Maoists also want in no uncertain terms.

Considering that the ‘system’ had demonstrated its resilience more than once by ousting unpopular regimes like Indira Gandhi’s in 1977 and then reinstating her when her successors failed the test of governance, a summary castigation of the Indian parliamentary process, which is widely admired across the world, does not carry much conviction.

Indeed, it was the intellectual vacuity of the movement that was its Achilles heel. Lacking a centre of gravity, it leant towards the saffron brotherhood and then tried to distance itself when it was criticised on this account. Although it was neither fish nor fowl in ideological terms, its basic identity of being an urban Hindu middle class phenomenon was obvious. Not surprisingly, these social ingredients were the same as the support base of the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is also made up of the town-based middle-class Hindus. There was no room, therefore, in the movement for minorities, Dalits, workers and peasants. It is the absence of these groups that will hurt Hazare’s political party at election time. Since there is little chance of Anna and Co markedly expanding its base of support by 2014 – the inclusion of Muslims, for instance, will entail the dropping of its slogan of
Vande Mataram,
which, in turn, will anger the Hindus – the new party will be hobbled from the start.

But, a restricted base is not its only disadvantage. A bigger one is the disparate nature of its so-called ‘core’ committee, which includes an aggressive member of an NGO who once asked, ‘what’s wrong with blackmail?’,  a father-and-son duo where the dad has a saffron background and the son is sympathetic towards the Maoists and Kashmiri separatists, and a police officer who is apparently trying to get her own back against the government for having denied her the Delhi police commissioner’s post. And at the head is someone who is evidently a simple-minded, if well-meaning, person who cannot be said to have a cultivated mind like Jayaprakash Narayan’s with whom he is often compared. (IPA)
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