With the ‘Sense of the House’ letter from the Speaker reaching Anna Hazare, the Anna fast has ended. And the Team Anna and the media have proclaimed victory. Now the nation is relieved from the non-stop 24x7 screams of the media. It can think now! It can now draw a balance sheet of the Anna stir to know what are its giveaways and takeaways. Now go back to where the agitation began.
What is now known as the Anna movement started as India Against Corruption (IAC), whose website says, “India Against Corruption movement is an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption.”
The IAC website lists as founders besides Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, Mahamood Madani, Arcbishop Vincent M Concessao, Syed Rizvi, Justice D S Tewatia, B R Lall and others. Click the January 2011 archives of IAC website, it is full of “March against corruption” in every nook and corner of India from Agra to Chennai and Ahmedabad to Silichar.
The leaders of the IAC, particularly Baba Ramdev, had raised, besides corruption, the emotive issue of Indian black money abroad. But the IAC receded into the oblivion and the apolitical movement against corruption, got reduced to merely a fight for Jan Lok Pal (JLP) Bill. The Anna movement emerged, narrowed into just a battle for a just JLP Bill, marginalised other founders and reduced its leadership to just four, the ‘Team Anna’. See the effect of these changes.
This was how Jan Lok Pal Bill replaced black money and corruption as the core agenda of the IAC? In the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, thanks to L K Advani, the black money issue had become a huge issue; it remained dormant after the UPA victory. But after the Tsunami of corruption hit Indian politics, the public roar against black money stashed abroad by politicians, businessmen and criminals became stentorian.
The media alleged that Sonia Gandhi had huge monies stashed away abroad. It was then that the UPA II suddenly thought of a Lok Pal Bill to ride out of the tornado of corruption and black money. It was a trap. Soon IAC walked into the trap. It dismissed the government version of the Lok Pal Bill and insisted that the draft prepared by its think tank, the Jan Lok Pal Bill, should be accepted. The Congress party saw it as a blessing in disguise to make its Lok Pal Bill fight the Jan Lok Pal Bill, to keep corruption and black money out of headlines.
Meanwhile, the BJP committed a Himalayan blunder. L K Advani wrote a personal letter to Sonia Gandhi for the hurt caused to her. That was made public to make it appear that it was to regret the charges made in the BJP Task Force Report on black money that Sonia Gandhi family was keeping huge illegal funds abroad. The BJP’s move against black money became moot, leaving the issue to the apolitical Swami Ramdev, Anna being confined to JLP Bill.
The Congress, thrown on the back foot by corruption and black money issues, saw in JLP Bill an opportunity to obfuscate both. When Anna started his Jantar Mantar fast, Sonia Gandhi – charged with hoarding black wealth abroad – offered to partner him in his battle against corruption! The result, the Congress successfully divided the IAC agenda between Anna with JLP Bill issue and Baba Ramdev with black money and corruption issues.
The first fast of Anna was thus subsumed into this Sonia-led Congress strategy, leaving the BJP – thanks to its own follies – with no issues. The collateral benefit to the Congress was that Anna helped to depoliticise and rob the BJP of a highly political issue. The Congress strategy also did more damage to the BJP. It helped to club all political parties, including both the ruling party and the opposition – read the Congress and the BJP – as one and the same.
Clubbing the BJP with the Congress on issues other than secularism helps the Congress and harms the BJP. Yet the elite leaders of the BJP allowed the Congress to succeed in its strategy. So after the first fast of Anna the Congress virtually dictated the agenda. Meanwhile Team Anna got Anna, who had first praised Narendra Modi, to talk against him so as to move the Anna movement further away from the BJP. This was the setting for the second Anna fast.
But the simple Anna proved increasingly difficult. He demanded a JLP Bill that included the PM down to everyone in the net. The Congress raised the plea that Anna could not dictate to the Parliament and got the BJP into the trap again. It got the constitutionalists in the BJP to endorse its view, again clubbing the BJP with itself!
But, the Congress strategy to handle Anna like it handled Swami Ramdev failed miserably with the media, which had no other headlines, focussing on Anna 24x7. With the media screaming ‘Anna’ and ‘Anna’ all the time, the Congress was on the run. Alas the BJP also found itself running with the Congress, against Anna. But, RSS workers enthused by Anna’s cry of “Vandemataram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” – both branded as RSS slogans – joined the movement in large numbers forcing the BJP president Nitin Gadkari to disregard the BJP Parliamentary Party and write to Anna offering support to his demands.
This forced the BJP Parliamentary Party also to side with Anna, rationalising the shift as the “evolving” stand of the BJP! This tilted the scale in Anna’s favour. But again the Congress would not leave the BJP. It joined with the BJP in the ‘Sense of the House’ exercise. The media claimed victory for Anna and for itself.
Here is the balance sheet of the Anna movement as of date. The BJP bracketed with the Congress loses; the Congress does not. The Congress cannot take Anna for granted; Anna cannot trust the Congress. The nation waits for what the Parliament will do about JLP Bill. The RSS is pleased that the two slogans “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vandemataram” long ostracised by Secular India have been secularised by Anna.
The writer is a well-known commentator on political
and economic issues.