It is debatable to say if the campaign by the team of Anna Hazare really made a difference on the outcome of the Hisar bypoll but it did and is certainly doing what it needed to do to manage the sentiment in its favour. What it has achieved symbolically, Congress has lost. Though the Congress party was not expected to win, it ended up with worst after security of its veteran candidate Jai Prakash was forfeited. The reactions by the Congress side seem more to legitimize the stand and gains of Anna Hazare side than to qualify the Congress to deny any hand by Anna Hazare campaign in the ‘now’ significant symbolic loss to the party. See this.
The Congress candidate warned Arvind Kejriwal of consequences of public anger and it was only natural when the person who attacked Kejriwal in Lucknow was being linked to the Congress even before it surfaced that he was Congress Sewa Dal member till 2009.
The perceptive claims of the difference made by the Anna Hazare side seemed to get positive nod by other acts of Congress as well.
Meeting of Ralegan Sarpanch with Rahul Gandhi was being much written about. A Congress MP arranged for it. A group from Ralegan arrived Delhi and stayed at accommodation arranged by ‘some’ Congress members. Anna, too, softening his stand invited Rahul to Ralegan. Everything was all across the media. Reports of Anna-Rahul and Anna-Congress thaw were being projected as big scoop. In spite of such media frenzy on the issue, Rahul Gandhi didn’t issue any denial or clarification on the meet. That was before Hisar bypoll results. Results came and Rahul Gandhi had sudden change of mind. The scene was totally changed after the Congress party was decimated in the election. All of a sudden, it was informed that Rahul wasn’t aware of the Ralegan team visit and therefore was unable to give time to them due to his busy schedule.
The thaw was thudded.
Anna Hazare took it as insult and immediately called back his people. Later on, he issued statement saying Rahul would never be welcomed in Ralegan.
As if these acts of the Congress party (in addition to the desperate statements issued by its spokespersons denying the Anna factor) were not enough, it announced a massive PR exercise in UP post-Deepawali. It was said Rahul Gandhi would lead the campaign focusing on the 2012 assembly election. But again its timing is something that is adding positively to the Hisar Anna factor. This announcement came at a time when members of the Anna Hazare group are on UP tour to ‘strengthen’ the anti-corruption movement. And as Anna has warned the Congress again on the ‘Lokpal Bill’, message went that it was a panic state response to the Anna factor campaign. Congress party looked worried of the proposition that the central government would be alleged of keeping ill-intent on the ombudsman issue. And allegations of conspiracy in assaults on Anna Hazare team members and one of the attacker coming out to be a former Congress member only added to it though Kejriwal’s attacker has been member of SP and BSP in past.
Every act of Congress is going against it adding to the negative public sentiment. And so the projected gains to the ‘Anna factor’ seem more a result of panic acts of the Congress party at the moment.
And at the same time, it is adding to the sense of complacency in some of key members of ‘Team Anna’ like Kejriwal or Kiran Bedi that is reflected in statements like ‘Anna is above the Parliament’. Anna, too, issued the statement that it was just his team this time, in Hisar, next time he himself would campaign against the Congress party for the ‘Lokpal Bill’ if the same was not passed by the winter session of the Parliament.
Anna factor might not have been that effective in Hisar as the Congress party has made it look like. It is true the Anna Symbolism has got a pan-India acceptance after the August Movement but the next stage that was to be was not taken care of. The next step of the strategy was to be investing resources to reach out to the hinterland – intellectual and human resources with the Gandhian spirit could have embarked on the journey efficiently. But that was not done.
Anna Hazare has sustained his line of opposing the Congress party in upcoming elections if it doesn’t pass the ‘Lokpal Bill’ by the winter session of the Parliament. They should have waited but they didn’t and campaigned against the Congress candidate in Hisar and helped win Kuldeep Bishnoi. Can they guarantee that others in the election fray including Bishnoi and Ajay Chautala were clean on issue of corruption? They cannot and India as a nation cannot afford one wrong move to be replaced with another wrong precedent. And so the agenda of the ‘Team Anna’ is looking more like of engaging in political cat-fight. Two prominent members of the IAC core committee have left in last two days while many others are considering quitting. Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi have been in controversies on the personal front with potential to hit the anti-corruption movement, one for making controversial statement on Kashmir while the other for submitting inflated bills for air-fare.
All these developments are the most-telling example of how the anti-corruption movement is losing its focus. (http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/2011/10/october-2-mahatma-and-anna-symbolism.html) And how effective ‘Anna factor’ is going to be in elections on an all-India canvas is a litmus test sort of thing that will be tested in the upcoming UP election. Hisar was in catchment area of Delhi, epicenter of the August Movement. UP is a different trajectory where issues based elections have been a thing of yore. Accessing these hinterlands not just in UP but across India should have been the next phase of the anti-corruption movement. It is not just about getting the ‘Lokpal Bill’ enacted but it is more about creating a movement and chain of organizations and activists like the ‘RTI Movement’ so that ‘Lokpal’ could give us, the society, good returns as the ‘RTI Act’ has been able to.
It is also not about being political in the fight, another debate about the anti-corruption movement. You need to be thinking like a politician when the very people you are protesting against are career politicians with questionable history of committing on issues. If Anna Hazare mixes elements of political maneuvering in his strategy, there is nothing wrong in that. But the spirit should be pure. It should symbolize the purity that made millions believe in the word ‘Anna’. We need to go back to the text book definition of politics where it is defined as a social function acting as wheel of an organized society. It is the present political class who has distorted the definition. The anti-corruption movement needs to be political but at the same time it needs to maintain the spirit of the text book definition.
We should not allow the Anna Symbolism to be diluted so soon. We need it to work on a pan-India scale including its hinterlands. Anna Hazare should not allow the stakes involved in cleaning the system to be compromised. There are good people. They will come forward for the movement. All they need is the backing of good intent and the ‘Team Anna’ needs to understand it. Anna Hazare needs to make them understand. We need a non-partisan political fight and not a political cat-fight.
Someone has rightly said – we need to understand the difference between ‘Anna’ and ‘Team Anna’.