Millennium Post

Reformer turns political sanyasin

Later in the day today anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare would be addressing a rally at the Ramlila grounds. The social worker from Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra first made national impact by going on a fast at the same historic venue in August 2012 demanding passage of ombudsman bill by the Parliament. The 11-odd day long dharna set the agenda for the 2014 elections.

Hazare’s fast gave rise to the personality of Arvind Kejriwal and consolidated the image of Kiran Bedi as social reformer. The large presence of people at the agitation venue certainly set the clock clicking against the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. Today Hazare returns to Ramlila Ground under changed circumstances.

In 2012, the logistics for Anna Hazare’s fast and large people turnout was provided by the outfits of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). Today Arvind Kejriwal, the man to draw richest harvest from Anna’s agitation, has pitted himself as the main adversary of RSS poster boy Narendra Modi. His opponents see in his actions fighting a proxy battle on behalf of the Congress and by his own admission he is an anarchist.

Anna’s other close aide Kiran Bedi has traveled very close to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Anna himself has decided to support West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Anna thus returns to Ramlila Grounds under such circumstances wherein he would be looked forward to giving message on issues bothering the nation, a recognisable percentage of which, at least the urban population, believed in what he said in 2012.

Anna like his onetime protégé may not take a direct dip in politics but he certainly looks to have convinced himself for the role of, in the absence of any better word, a political sanyasin. We have a history of such political sanyasins amidst us starting from Mahatma Gandhi to Jaya Prakash Narayan, who did not take a political post but did influence the position of the outfit they patronised.

As of now Anna has committed himself to be the saint-mentor for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who in turn has started the process of fresh political alignments. She has put her attention on the formation of another front with focus on the states of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand. The four states – Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha – together send 116 MPs to Lok Sabha.

A day after AIADMK snapped ties with the Left Front, the Tamil Nadu chief minister contacted her West Bengal counterpart and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. The call came after Mamata had said a day earlier that she would be happy to support Jayalalithaa as PM candidate. The two political heavyweights are reported to have opened dialogue on marshalling like-minded regional parties and creating a non-Congress, non-BJP and non-Left alternative.

In the natural course, the two could approach their Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik for some kind of an arrangement or understanding on the matter. Patnaik and Jaya had earlier come together in June 2012 and signed a friendship treaty in the national capital. The two got together had announced the name of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma as their candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Patnaik in his own way has made quick and smart political moves. The Biju Janata Dal has entered into an arrangement with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in tribal dominated Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh districts in the coming polls. Incidentally, JMM is running an alliance government with the Congress in Jharkhand but is not having the best of relations with its ally.

Some of the leaders of the JMM also enjoys some truck with Trinamool in West Bengal. One of the prominent leaders of the party in Jharkhand Dilip Chatterjee was earlier with the JMM as its general secretary and believed to be close to party founder Shibu Soren. Some of the Jharkhand splinter groups have already merged their outfits with Trinamool.  It also needs to be examined what had brought Jaya and Patnaik together for supporting candidature of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangama for the post of president. Those who closely follow Tamil Nadu politics and the Sangh movement saw Sangh ideologue S Gurumurthy’s signature in the pact. This was followed by the induction of the Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on the high table of the NDA, giving clear indications that Sangma enjoyed Sangh’s blessings. Swamy later joined the BJP. A ‘political’ Sangma was preferred over an ‘apolitical’ former president APJ Abdul Kalam, keeping in mind the pro-active role the Rashtrapati Bhawan could play in case of a fractured mandate after the 2014 General Election. Kalam’s name was first floated by Mamata Banerjee. That Jayalalitha enjoys a warm personal equation with both Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is pretty well known in the political circles. With Anna Hazare deciding to support Mamata only add to the number of their well-wishers who are ideologically closer to the Sangh Parivar.

In these three states the BJP do not have much at stake. They have not even examined the possibility of entering into an alliance with the BJP. Modi’s purpose is served as far as they do not enter into an allegiance with either the Congress-led UPA or the Left-spurred third front. It’s here that the likes of Anna and Sri Sri Ravishankar could play interlocutors with the BJP, which as of now looks to be the most likely scenario.

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