As anti-corruption campaigns sweep India, the country’s political future seems uncertain. What are the consequences and which political leaders are at the forefront of change?
India’s anti-corruption movement opens doors for more actors but also alienates many.
Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, flagged off BJP leader LK Advani’s Jan Chetna Yatra (People’s Awareness Tour) from Sitabdiara, the birth place of Jayaprakash Narayan (JP): India’s legendary socialist leader. JP was instrumental in the first ever political change in India in 1977 when Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party lost the elections.
Advani says that his yatra is against corruption although the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) does not support his candidature for prime ministership in 2014. Advani’s competitor, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is also running for prime minister in 2014, feels his ‘good governance’ in Gujarat could become a factor to reckon with. However, he faces stiff challenges from not only Advani but also from the Janata United Dal leader, Nitish Kumar, who has been a media favorite for the 2014 elections with his secular credentials as well as good governance record.
Wanting to reiterate his position as supreme leader of the NDA, Advani purposefully started his yatra from Bihar where in October 1990, Lalu Prasad Yadav had ordered his arrested and stopped his Ram Rath yatra which resulted in communal disturbances throughout the country. Advani knows that Narendra Modi will never be accepted in the NDA due to his hardcore anti-muslim image. Furthermore, Modi is already pre-occupied, addressing cases piling against his government and ministers for the 2002 riots.
The middle class or opinion- makers of India have forced political leaders to address the issue of anti-corruption that currently marks India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s image as a middle class hero has taken a sharp beating after Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption unveiled numerous scams and the Congress party found itself in the midst of turmoil. Many insiders believe that the Party’s 2014 face, Rahul Gandhi, is still not prepared for the big job. Rahul has been trying to reach the masses in Uttar Pradesh through his visits to farmers, Dalits and others. With Sonia held back by illness, it is Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister and P. Chidambaram, Union Minister
for Home Affairs, who have their eyes on the prize.
The biggest beneficiary of the anti-corruption movement seems to be Mayawati, Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh. Given the middle class’s anti-congress sentiment and unsettled by Rahul Gandhi’s involvement in UP, Mayawati is sure to return to power in the Assembly elections next year. She has a solid grip over the government and is looking for a road map to Delhi.
The National Democratic Alliance is using Anna Hazare’s movement for its own purposes. Anna’s movement does not have support from the Dalits, minorities and backward communities and is essentially a middle class, upper caste movement with a deep anti-congress agenda. Previously facing divided opposition, the Congress Party was convinced it would return to power in 2014. The game has since changed.
Anna has openly asked people to vote against the Congress due to its lack of sincerity in pushing the Lokpal bill. Anna’s threat has damaged the Congress’s middle class image but in the past twenty years this middle class has been badly communalized and turned saffron in India. However, the cards may boomerang on them if there is a counter-reaction from the Dalits, OBCS and Muslims who are very apprehensive of the Anna campaign and the involvement of the Sangh Parivar.
However, much can change between now and 2014. Despite all its shortcomings, UPA remains a better choice for India as it is prepared to not just tackle financial corruption but also issues of communalization of the middle classes and media. While UPA has made various mistakes, it is introducing ground-breaking legislation such as the Right to Information Act, Food Security Act and the Forest Rights Act, amongst others. Speculations may aid media frenzy; however a new India will need a modern looking prime minister with a deep sense of political understanding and diversity of the country. India cannot afford an apolitical prime minister, nor can it afford a leader at the top who has a tainted communal record. The best bet for India is a leader with a clean image, who is acceptable to the minorities and marginalized communities. The writer is a human rights activist and documentary film-maker, based in New Delhi.
Keeping politics in line