Millennium Post

Not far from the crowd

Ours is a democratic country, and each and every single person is important  when counting heads. The derogation of democracy – Loktantra has also been described as crowdacy – bheedtantra. The crowd moves with the wave; it has no mind of its own. It has been observed that the politicians feel elated to see surging crowds around them and in their meetings. Once, the first president of India, Rajendra Prasad, stated that the politicians draw energy even from the dust generated by the presence of a large crowd. The crowds even set the parameters for the popularity and acceptability of leaders. Moving to the current scenario in the capital, New Delhi, worries were visible on the faces of team Anna at Jantar Mantar when they found the large crowd missing. There was no upbeat mood, encouraging response and participatory spirit in their third day of the sit-in and hunger strike by the three so called second line motivators. The faces of the active members of the team Anna looked pale on seeing the meagre crowd that was not worth counting. They tried to conceal their deep concern by stating that people were slowly pouring in. They were awaiting the arrival of the
yoga guru
to express his solidarity with their struggle for Jan Lokpal. In fact, jan – the people – decided to stay at their homes rather than joining in to support. Team Anna was optimistic that the yoga guru will be coming along with thousands of people. The crowd came with the Baba and thinned after the departure of the Baba from the site. However, the ground remained flooded during the presence of Baba and the crowd became responsive too.

One may analyse that the Baba has learnt well the tricks. He is shrewd in his behaviour and political approach. He might have improved in the aftermath of the failure of his mass movement in 2011. Every word uttered by the Baba conveyed a message. It was advisory and a taunt to team Anna. Further, the Baba also tried to establish the significance and relevance of the crowd by stating that unflinching support of a particular percentage of population was necessary to make any movement successful. While underlining the need of organisational skills to generate a crowd, the Baba boasted of his capabilities and competence to draw a huge crowd. He also hinted that team Anna has lost its charisma, hence, they are unable to draw a crowd. In other words, the Baba made it clear that team Anna has no organisation of its own and it is not easy to succeed with borrowed organisational support. The Baba did convey his solidarity and stated his future support in the struggle for Jan Lokpal and against black money. The alliance between the Baba and team Anna has always been on shaky grounds. It is not certain that they will move together for a longer duration. The movement takes time to gain ground and succeed. Team Anna is a divided house. However, the Baba can boast of an army of dedicated, staunch followers who have graduated in yoga camps and Patanjali clinics. There are indications that team Anna is thinking of fielding candidates and is doing the spadework to form a political front. This has resulted in a war of words between team Anna and the two major political parties. In any case, the formation of a separate political front will also require a formidable leader as crowd puller, who is not at all visible in their team.

It can be established that the crowd is an essential ingredient for the take-off of any movement, agitation or mission. The crowd matters in politics and in movements. No agitation can sustain for a substantial period without a crowd. One has yet to find a single leader, with the exception of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, who could continue the fight, say agitation, alone, without mustering any crowd. Gandhi never lacked public support and crowds, though he succeeded in his fasts in jail without seeking any public support on many occasions. He was the only able and efficient crowd puller of his times. It would be wise to refer to a few crowd pullers of the last five decades. The late Jai Prakash Narain’s
Sampoorna Kranti
rally in 1975 at the Boat Club, New Delhi drew the largest crowd. This resulted in the birth of a political party. The Boat Club in New Delhi became a permanent venue to organise the so-called all-India rallies. A rally organised by Mahaendra Singh Tikait and another by a Haryana strongman, Charan Singh, who later on became the deputy prime minister also drew large crowds though they indulged in vandalism and looted the mobile vendors.

The authorities then decided to enforce a ban on rallies at the Boat Club, which is the Hyde Park of Delhi. Earlier, a rally called by Singh at the Boat Club, during Morarji Desai’s tenure, turned out to be grand in size and numbers. The rally was organised to celebrate his birth day. Indira Gandhi sent a bouquet to Singh which paved the way for the Jat leader to become the prime minister and fulfill his life-time ambition. A rally addressed by the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, after assasination of his mother, was mammoth. Gandhi stated that an earthquake was imminent after a big tree falls down. He was referring to the aftermath of the murder of Indira Gandhi.

Sat Pal is a communication consultant and has worked with several central and state ministers.
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