Anna Hazare will have to distance himself totally from the BJP and its leadership and formulate a strategy that will enhance the scope of his movement from just the Lokpal Bill to a more comprehensive and substantive agenda.
Hazare’s anti-corruption movement needs to revisit its agenda.
There is a huge debate on in India these days. Not on corruption and how it can be tackled but whether Anna Hazare, the ageing Gandhian who forced Parliament and the government to listen to the voices of the streets, is independent or a supporter of the Hindu nationalist RSS and whether he and his team are honest or have taken money from all sorts of dubious sources. The result is that the government is sitting pretty amidst the chatter, hoping it will not have to strengthen the Lokpal Bill (against corruption) in any meaningful manner.
The UPA government through a series of ill thought out steps catapulted Anna Hazare to the national, and indeed international, stage. First he was targeted viciously by Congress spokespersons. Then, he was denied permission to sit on fast at a ground of his choice. Third, he was arrested in the early hours of the morning and taken to Tihar Jail in Delhi, housing politicians accused of cheating the exchequer of thousands of crores of rupees. A murmur of disgust and anger swept through India, gathering decibels along the way. By the time Hazare was released, Indians across the country had been galvanized into action and even as large crowds gathered at Ramlila grounds awaiting his arrival, simultaneous protests broke out in all cities and smaller towns.
It was a wave of anger against the government and Hazare, at the age of 74 years, became a national hero. The crowds, poor and middle class, thronged the Ramlila grounds day and night in support, giving him the support to carry on. Parliament agreed to his demand, and held a special discussion where the ‘sense of the House’ was in support of a strong Lokpal Bill, inclusive of the salient features in Hazare’s JanLokpal Bill. There was celebration in the Hazare camp, and he broke his fast the next morning warning that he and his team would keep a close vigil on the performance of the government and other political parties on this issue. Hazare had become Hazareji.
It is clear that the struggle is not over, and these few weeks are at best a much-needed reprieve for the Movement against Corruption. Congress supporters have been working overtime to pillory Hazare, and brand him as a Hindu nationalist. It is true that he has worked with the RSS in his village, and is definitely
not very liberal in his thought processes. At the same time he is not a communal man, just someone who has waged a war against corruption for years without bothering to think out the issue in all its dimensions. He will thus be far sharper in his attack on A. Raja (former Telecommunications Minister facing corruption charges on the 2G scam) than on Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister who presided over the massacre of thousands of Muslims and has still to be tried for it.
It is this last attribute that has silenced many intellectuals and the more aware sections of civil society who would have otherwise had no quarrels with Anna Hazare. It is clear that given the pivotal role he now has in national affairs, he and his team will have to formulate a view on the important issues of communalism and casteism. Corruption cannot only be fiscal, it has a far wider paradigm and Anna Hazare will have to clear his thought processes on these issues. He can then focus on fiscal corruption with a greater impact, and with a more inclusive agenda that will have substance and depth insofar as the poor and oppressed of India are concerned.
Corruption has, no doubt, eaten into the vitals of society with bribes becoming part of a system that refuses to function without greasing its fists. The Jan Lokpal Bill can answer only a small fraction of this corruption, with the story as always lying in good, effective implementation. There is a danger of the proposed Lokpal becoming a huge, wieldy, bureaucratic structure and thereby defeating the very purpose for which it was set up. That is if it comes into existence at all, as there are powerful forces within the government and outside opposing it. Besides, as one of those opposing the Bill said the other day, how many fasts can Hazare sit on?
For the moment, however, corruption has come centre stage and
Aspirations are huge and Hazare just might not be able to fit the role to carry the movement forward in the same, sure manner. He will have to grow large feet and at the moment his statements do not inspire a great deal of confidence.
at government offices, clerks and officers are finding it just that little bit more difficult to ask for bribes. There is an awareness that by itself creates a level of accountability that has not been seen on the issue of corruption in India for several long years now. Young people who formed a huge part of Hazare’s support base are particularly vocal these days, and enthused about the success of the movement.
But the aspirations are huge, and Hazare just might not be able to fit the role to carry the movement forward in the same, sure manner. He will have to grow large feet and at the moment his statements do not inspire a great deal of confidence. One would have expected him and his team to have moved ahead, regardless of the government’s efforts to mire them in petty little controversies, and to start preparing and speaking of the next phase. Unfortunately, Anna Hazare himself has been hurling abuses at the Ministers that does not dignify the movement, and while the people have certainly given him the space to speak his mind, he must ensure that this is enlarged not reduced.
To start with he will have to speak less, to distance himself totally from the BJP and its leadership, including Gujarat’s Narendra Modi whom he had praised at one point, and formulate a strategy that will enhance the scope of his movement from just the Lokpal Bill to a more comprehensive and substantive agenda. Anna Hazare must publicly embrace secularism, as while this is not in his direct sights at the moment, he and his team must surely know that corruption cannot be fought successfully without secularism. The two are totally interlinked.