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Friday, August 3, 2012

Fight Against Corruption: Team Anna To Fight Elections!

Article first published as India: Anti-Corruption Fight Goes Political! on Technorati.


It was possibly the biggest movement to rock India after Independence. With unprecedented support for the cause the anti-corruption fight started by social activist Anna Hazare in April, 2011 transformed into a mass movement. But the huge success of the movement signaled its downfall too. Thanks to a variety of reasons including contradictions, counter charges and friction within Team Anna and core members’ political ambitions mass support for the movement has been dwindling all the time. Seemingly running out options the movement finally became political.

Falling back on its oft-repeated ‘fast’ weapon Team Anna started yet another indefinite fast in New Delhi from July 25, 2012. For a change this time, the core members of the team sat into the fast first with Anna Hazare threatening to join by Sunday, the 29th of July, if the government did not respond till then. Eventually Anna had to join in.

Support for the fast was not even in hundreds in the early days. Sensing trouble, Baba Ramdev with whom Anna formed an alliance to carry forward the fight for a larger cause only recently, descended on the ground with around three thousand of his supporters. Finally crowds were visible, but many criticized the Baba for hijacking the movement. And, most importantly, the discordant notes were only too perceptible.

Just before launching the fast core Team Anna members raised the pitch for their demand to investigate 15 ministers of the government of India including the Prime Minister and even the newly elected President Pranab Mukherjee for charges of corruption that they said could be proved with the evidence they had. Anna Hazare did not corroborate this particular demand and stuck to his traditional demand for a strong anti-corruption Bill. He even congratulated the new President, and Baba Ramdev created more friction by saying that names of supreme personalities like the President should not be taken during protests.

Total disarray and non-existent support naturally did not inspire the government to respond in a positive way. The local police only warned Team Anna to end the fast or hospitalize the members whose health had deteriorated. Arvind Kejriwal, a core member whose condition became worrisome due to diabetes, chose to oppose vehemently any attempt by the police to evict them forcibly to hospitals and announced the Team’s decision to continue the fast. The stalemate continued.

On the ninth day that is the 2nd of August, 2012, Anna Hazare addressing a crowd of about five thousand suddenly announced that preparing for a political alternative was not wrong since nothing could possibly be achieved on the Bill with a totally non-responsive government. While expressing his determination not to join any political party he said good people with integrity should be selected as political candidates and they must try to change the corruption-ridden system from within. He asked for a referendum from his supporters whether Team Anna should go ahead forming a political party or a front to fight the elections or not. Other core members elaborated on the issue and there seemed to be absolute agreement with many stalwarts all over the country sending letters of consent and encouragement. Team Anna announced its decision then to end the fast on the next day.

The most heated debate of the nation started unfolding and was set to rage on indefinitely. Questions and many more questions came to the fore. How would Team Anna do it? How would it get a referendum since its mass support has been falling? What would be its method to garner the votes since voter apathy is very common in its major support base of the middle classes and to get votes from the larger citizens it must have strong organizational infrastructure and huge funds? How should it react to the support shown by several Bollywood superstars? How to guarantee that the Anna front’s elected candidates would always vie away from corruption of any form? Answers would always be difficult to get.

Meanwhile Baba Ramdev was set to go on with his movement against black money from 9th August, 2012 in Delhi and his movement assumed added significance in the perspective of Team Anna going political. The immensely rich yoga-guru announced in Team Anna’s gathering that he would bring in 900,000 people for his protest, but the Baba conceded magnanimously that you needed at least 10 million people for the success of any movement!

While the effort to join the system to change it from within is laudable the numerous facts and events of the recent past only seem to signify the ultimate death of a most significant movement in Indian history.

Has the anti-corruption movement in India gone into a self-destructive mode? Or was it long overdue and inevitable?

Today in New Delhi Team Anna’s fast was formally broken by retired Army General VK Singh. Anna Hazare confirmed his team’s political resolve by announcing the formation of a political party though he would not contest as a candidate. The political party will be without any high command and will be a symbol of another movement under which the people will select the candidates and the candidates will fight the 2014 general elections to enter Parliament and to decentralize power.

A political Utopia for Anna Hazare? 

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