Monday, 22 August 2011

Anna Hazare: Anti-Corruption Crusader or Elitists's pawn!

Four months after Anna Hazare's movement had fizzled out due to allegations of RSS infiltration and the fiasco surrounding yoga guru Baba Ram Dev's entry into the scene, the veteran has once again taken centre stage in Indian politics.

The septuagenarian is sitting on a fast at the Ramlila Ground for a week. As support for him grows across the country, the centre seems to have lost its way. UPA leaders are at their at loss how to contain the rising tide of anger against the UPA government.

With citizens laying siege at the residences of ministers and MPs, clearly the Anna phenomenon has taken the nation by the storm. With Sonia Gandhi away, Congress leaders are having a tough time devising a strategy to check he frenzy.

Anna Hazare hasn't got adequate support from some sections including Dalits and Backwards. But his team has made it up with active support of the print and electionc media and the vocal middle-class, which have the capacity to make or break any movement.

There is criticism that the 'civil society' is dictating terms. That they are autocratic and don't tolerate dissent. That those who are against it are readily termed 'anti-national' or less patriotic. That this movement is starting a new trend which will subvert authority of democratic institutions.

Fears have been expressed that Hazare who had earlier praised Narendra Modi and who didn't take stand on a wide range of issues has been used as a pawn in the so-called fight against corruption which aims at weakening constitutional authorities.

Even activist Arundhati Roy has cricitised Anna's methods. She says that he may be a Gandhian but his ways are not. In an article published in The Hindu, she drew comparison with Maoists, saying that Team Anna also wants to take over power without any regard for constitution or electoral process.
Urmila Matondkar endorses Anna

Roy has said that while 10,000 people protesting at Koodankulam don't get five minutes on TV, any demonstration that is supported by the top layer like the current agitation at Ramlila Maidan is given extensive coverage by the news channels.

Anna magic has surely caught the ruling party by surprise. It is not just man on the street or the activist, celebrities including Bollywood actors are supporting his mass movement. In fact, it has become a sort of fashion to root for Anna.

But the tone and tenor of the protesters worry intelligentsia. While a section condemned the government crackdown and its refusal to deal with Anna, there was a feeling that the self-righteous attitude of Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and the team that 'Either you are with us or against us' is wrong.

Interestingly, Congress has said that the campaign comprises anarchists, fascists and maoists. It is also being alleged that the right-wing groups are using the Anna movement to appropriate the jingoistic Hindutva line in Indian political mainstream.

There is a campaign on facebook to portray Anna's movement as casteist. It is alleged that the team is working to protect the interests of the Upper Castes. Parallels are being drawn with the Ram Mandir movement and the Mandal agitation, both directed against underprivileged sections.

On the contrary, Anna's supporters have said that it is a historic moment and it's time when a strong law could be enacted through people's pressure. They claim that it is a smear campaign that is directed against them to weaken the movement.

With government losing its confidence by the day, Anna Hazare's moment has surely arrived. It is to be seen if the Centre manages to take steam out of the agitation or the anti-corruption drive will succeed in getting the government nod on its Jan Lokpal bill.

It's only after the bill that one may ask, what next! And will the all powerful Lokpal under whose ambit comes every institution, bring the much needed transparency to this country and in process get us rid of the menace of corruption which we encounter in our daily lives.

Time will tell.

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