Anna Hazare, the single largest reason apart from the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, for the ouster of the Manmohan Singh led UPA government at the centre, has resurfaced after a self-imposed exile on October 2. Sources close to him say that he spoke to Mahatma Gandhi in solitude and decided to take up cudgels again for the Lokpal Bill or an Anti-Corruption Bill against the Central Government.
Anna’s timing seems to be uncanny. The ageing Gandhian has come back to haunt the government when it is at its weakest stage. If this is because of the whispering of the Mahatma then God bless Gandhiji for his strategic sensitivity. When there are growing noises on the economic slowdown and price rise, Anna returns. Is it just a coincidence or is it a well-planned strategy?
Let’s try and decipher Anna Hazare the phenomenon a decade ago. In an India ridden with corruption and scams, he was the clean voice who raised issues and gathered youth to ask questions that were awkward to the then government and showed solutions to avoid corruption. Arvind Kejriwal, Kumar Vishwas, Manish Sisodia, Kiran Bedi, Shazia Ilmi, Ashutosh and many more joined the ranks as the Anna Army swelled and fear swept the corrupt and hope swelled in the public at large. He continued to apply Gandhian principles of non-violence, non-cooperation and fast until death to put the government under pressure to get his answer to corruption – The Lokpal Bill.
From a hero, somewhere in between he lost track as his impractical dispositions failed to cut much ice and human psyche and its quest for power took over his team and they started deserting him to either form AAP and gain power in Delhi like Kejriwal, Kumar, Manish Sisodia and Ashutosh or join BJP ranks like Kiran Bedi and Shazia Ilmi.
Anna was left alone. His ranting that those who join him will have to sign an affidavit that they will not join politics seems foolhardy. It is difficult to defend this affidavit in the court of law because it infringes upon the personal freedom of the subject. In an era when even elected representatives cross over party lines, this threat seems to be small for people to fear signing. So as Kejriwal made use of Anna to reach a platform, people would sign affidavits and desert him when time is ripe. So the moral of the story is that Anna has to change with time and become more practical if he has to continue his quest for good governance.
The advantage with Anna is that people believe that he is squeaky clean and will not betray their trust in whatever he says and he has proven that. So, as the general elections appear closer and the battle lines harden, Anna sees an opportunity to hog the limelight and there is space for him to do so. His void still remains vacant for him to occupy but Anna will have to fight a belligerent Modi Government this time if he has to take on the establishment and there will be a lot of heckling from an army that does not take criticism lightly. There will be fear from the people joining him because of the unidirectional thinking of Anna pitted against the political shrewdness of the BJP and the Congress. So Anna will have to build his fortress again and this time it has to be stronger because he has foes from inside and outside who know his strategy better and who have crossed over to other parties. The aura and unpredictability of Anna is no longer a strength that he used to possess.
At the same time, the sincere voice of Anna and his unconventional way of protest still remains a strength. Anna II will be an interesting watch but whether it goes on to become a bigger hit like Bahubali II or turns into a damp squib like Ramgopal Verma’s ‘Aag’ remains to be seen.