Did Anna rely on guile soldiers? (Part-1)

Nabeel A. Khan
Team Anna disbands. It was a headline foretold for me, just worth noting an action in the chronicles of the event, which was foreseen weeks after the first spell of the movement –had started in April 2011.  Innumerable doubts over the success and effectiveness of the movement had begun to haunt. The very first step of formation of the so called –Team Anna Core Committee was emitting sparks of contentious agenda embraced by the quite a few members, if not all, going by their history.

Hence, a team was formed without any teamliness apparent. They had to rather elaborate and convince about the strength and unity of the entourage. In the beginning, the smell of a strategic ploy was evident in the selection of people which was strictly based on needs such as to pull crowed, grab headlines and video footage.

Anna Hazare, was made to be the show-stopper for his previous track record as the grand protester. Hazare, a man who single handedly changed the landscape of his village and made many governments in western state of India –Mharashtra touch the dust over the issues of corruption did succeed in first instance. As the politicians did have certain degree of respect or rather fear for him. But Charisma did not sustain till the second innings because ridding high on temporary heroic depiction and perception the team took fatal steps in between specially going political from the apolitical stand.

Thus Anna, the champion for decades lost his virtue at the India Against Corruption, alias Janlokpal movement most probably because he failed to understand the people around him. He seemed to have understood himself as patriarch and just came to help the team for a good cause. But in no time, he was neither a leader nor had a follower. Many of the members of Team Anna (or civil society…the term probably best suited to control population, as it reduced a population of billions into a couple of thousand) –took the “Mai Anna Hoon” (I am Anna) quite literally.  

The septuagenarian, with his usual verve and enthusiasm was on the venue for sit-in protest in Indian capital city New Delhi, probably holding the first protest outside his home state. The venue was indeed a very appropriate one as it was the centre of media including for the mushrooming satellite TV channels.

Cool & Jazzy Team

However, the movement (envisaged to uproot corruption) was real reflection and mirror of the changing India. It clearly said that now demonstration and protest can also be filled with cool quotient. It was no less a gala event than one organised by the political parties often to woo numbers while lacking a majority or a college fest or the page three events. It had a poet, cartoonist, rock stars, IT experts, media & branding specialist and sanyasi burning midnight oil to make it a super-hit event. What was lacking was only understanding of the real situation and understanding of the country’s politics. In a guile and mendacity they tried to blow air in the balloon without knowing the limit.

Staging up

Let’s see the chronicle of the events as it unfolded. Anna Hazare starts his indefinite strike on 5 April 2011 with a strong statement “I will fast until Jan Lokpal Bill is passed.” The start was full of emotional rhetoric and cached imagination of a large number of population. The middle class, which often keeps a commentator status came forward and participated which was a major change in the history of any movement in India. A day, the movement claimed the ejection of senior politician and a old foe of Hazare- Sharad Pawar from the empowered group of minister.  

The further trump of the team came as the government accepted their demand on 8 April and the next day government issued a history breaking notification in the Gazette of India on formation of a joint committee with a politician and non-politician co-chairing it.

This ensued the end of the 98-hour hunger strike with an announcement of 15 August as deadline for the bill to be passed. However, the people desperate to escape the scourge of corruption brought almost the country under siege thus forcing the government to take unprecedented steps to tone down the agitation.

Then the round of meetings held which reflected lack of agreement between the two parties. Despite, certain objections on 28 July 2011 the union cabinet approved a draft of the Lokpal Bill, keeping the Prime Minister, judiciary and lower bureaucracy out of the Lokpal’s ambit. Naturally, Anna Hazare rejected the draft, and threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike from 16 August 2011 if a strong Janlokpal Bill was not presented in Parliament.

It was then UPA government suffered another PR disaster after arresting Anna Hazare on 16 August while he was to begin his fast. This further demonized the already embroiled Congress-led government. Within four hours of the arrest public turned outrageous and the government had to release him on 20 August with permission to fast at the Ramlila grounds.

Now, Anna received a grand welcome, supporters’ choking the streets of the national capital. This was probably the zenith of his popularity. He vowed to fast till his last breath if the strong Janlokpal Bill was not passed in the ongoing Parliament session which was to conclude on 8 September.

The protest became highly impressive and makes an impact across the country as the TV and other media started devouring on it. Many channels almost started airing live telecast of the entire agitation. Following which was joined by people from all walks- films and the commoners started swarming near the cameras making reporters even life tougher. On 27 August both the Houses of the Parliament passed a resolution proposed by Pranab Mukherjee ‘conveying the sense of the House’ on the Lokpal Bill.

Hence, this accelerated the image of the Team Anna into the top gear the entire media heaped praise on him. However, the public frenzy plummeted as the Bill was not passed in the monsoon session despite unusual extended debate and Hazare called off his hunger strike sighting poor health conditions. … WAIT FOR PART-II

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