Millennium Post

Rancorous fallout of Anna’s stir

Delhi will once again witness the process of decisive political churning. In three days from now, the city-state of Delhi will go to polls after witnessing a very vicious campaign, which has largely been built on false promises, despicable allegations and equally contemptible counter-allegations. These polls are a culmination of the social movement, which started in April 2011, as the anti-corruption crusader from Maharashtra Anna Hazare took centre-stage.

The two protagonists of this movement, which swayed the city and not the nation, as those in television media would like us to believe, are today pitched in a close fight, levelling ignominious charges bereft of basic social etiquettes. Having followed politics from a very young age and as a journalist for past two decades, I am unable to recall the last time such vitriol was used in a poll campaign.

The true nature of Anna Hazare’s campaign will take some time to unravel. Though it was initially bolstered by a network of organisations affiliated to the Sangh Parivar, it had the presence of Arvind Kejriwal, who had interned under social activists like Aruna Roy, Shekhar Singh and Medha Patkar. These left-leaning social sector entrepreneurs enjoyed patronage of no less a person than Sonia Gandhi, the most powerful politician in the country in the last 10 years.

Having arranged for the ammunition to launch an attack on the Congress, the Sangh Parivar allowed Kejriwal to hold the trigger. It was clearly a strategic and tactical mistake on the Parivar’s part. The Sangh Parivar’s failure, stems from the fact that it allowed somebody without moorings in its own ideology to stand taller that its cadres. The BJP has committed a similar mistake, in foisting Kiran Bedi as its chief ministerial candidate.

Aided and abetted by a TRP (television rating point)-hungry  media, who are desperate to cook stories from a live event, we have witnessed a Celluloid Movement, National Disorder and Kolaveri Di scenario, notions that were earlier addressed in my columns. Witnessing the poll campaign in Delhi today, I feel vindicated about my earlier observations.

Celluloid Movement
Some editors, who went on eugolise the anti-corruption movement, are today sitting on the either side of the political divide. Some are fulltime with the Aam Aadmi Party, whereas others are sitting proxy for the BJP. Anna’s movement nevertheless managed to display that journalists often harbour political ambition under the garb of ‘objective journalism’. These ‘objectives’ are what helped script a movement, where such journalists found roles as ‘agents’ of ‘social change.’

That the movement was an indication of a general disorder engulfing the nation was to be proven right, with Kejriwal himself claimed that he was an anarchist. It’s another matter that today he accepts the mistake on his part to have first run the 49-day-long government like an activist before abandoning it. Today, Kejriwal says that he is ready to make amends.

Kolaveri Di character

Some may point out that the fallout of the movement led to the creation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The creation of AAP, however, had itself negated the very spirit of the anti-corruption movement. The song, Why this Kolaveri Di, bereft of any meaningful lyrics, harped on traditional folk rhythm and went viral on social networking sites, coinciding with the heydays of Anna-led movement in 2011.

Where does ‘Kolveri Di’ stand on the popularity charts today? Somewhere close to where the Jan Lokpal Bill movement lies. If the song in Tanglish [a mixture of Tamil and English] was bereft of any meaningful lyrics, so was Anna Hazare’s movement, which lacked any ideological moorings. They did not have an agenda. In the end Team Anna turned out to be a comity of self-seekers, promoting their individual agendas. This fact is evident now in the contest between its two protagonists – Arvind Kejwriwal and Kiran Bedi.

Arvind Kejriwal’s newly-acquired close aide Ashutosh has often compared Anna’s movement with that of the Sampoorn Kranti Andolan (Total Revolution Movement) of Jayaprakash Narayan (JP). It is clear to most observers of history that Anna is no match for JP. Despite his desire to once again take centre-stage in the national discourse, Anna has been consigned to the backyards of Ralegan Siddhi. JP, however, skippered a successful anti-Emergency political movement and still managed to stay away from occupying any political office. JP’s movement had also spread across a much wider canvass, incorporated a much bigger agenda and enjoyed a much wider support-base.

In movements led by both JP and Anna, one witnessed the degeneration of the very idealism that brought them there in the first place, besides the bitter political rivalry that ensued among its committed cadres. The former movement disintegrated after the BJP took an ideological right-turn during the Ramjanambhoomi Movement in the 1990s. This ideological turn, taken after a decade and a half, had forced a wide chasm among its rank and file. In the Anna Hazare-led movement, however,  its followers witnessed a bitter parting barely three years after the movement began.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post

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