Battlezone Lokpal: Episode 3, Volume 1, Year-ender 2011: In-focus arena shifts to Mumbai. Parliament to complete its quorum in Delhi: Delhi to Mumbai and the Lokpal - a tale of two cities romancing with the one beloved - Lokpal - blowing hot/blowing cold. Benefit of doubt to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement once more. Let's work to make it heard loudly in the power-elite corridor. But, beware of the difference between Anna and Team Anna. The Team Anna has lost much of the gains. That is evident from the morning to the evening of December 27, 2011 – happenings don’t paint an encouraging picture.
Things were moving on towards another round of confrontation and the stage was set for December 27. And so it all began today. But events in the run-up to this fast face eerie similarities and visible differences to what happened before the August 16 fast.
Take 1: Anna Hazare is to sit of indefinite fast August 16 onwards. He alleges government of betraying on the Lokpal Bill promise by bringing a weak bill. Government has tried all to sabotage the fast including denying the venue, imposing impractical restrictions on the movement, vitriolic war of words between Team Anna and government spokespersons. Security concerns have been raised. Intelligence alerts for threats have been issued. Some surrogate PILs have been filed opposing the fast. Government is buoyed by the meek reaction on Ramdev Ramleela Ground episode and thinks can handle the Anna Hazare agitation in the similar way. Meanwhile it has tried character assassination attempts digging up the cases from nowhere against Team Anna members.
Take 2: Anna Hazare is to sit on his three day fast December 27 onwards. He alleges government of betraying on the Lokpal Bill promise by bringing a weak bill. Government has tried all to malign the movement. Buoyed by the recent spate of significant controversies against key Team Anna members, it is trying to give them a tough treatment. Like Ramdev episode earlier, this time, their high handedness is more due to Team Anna’s internal differences. They are reading something into the phrase ‘Anna fatigue’ as coined by some. They have continued with their character assassination attempts. The war of words has become even more vitriolic. Security alerts and security level have been heightened. Some surrogate PILs have been filed opposing the fast, this time in Mumbai.
Then there are some visible differences.
Take 3: This time there has been no controversy regarding the venue. Denying a venue to Anna Hazare to sit on fast, and that, too, after the August episode, was like burning the fingers again.
Take 4: For the first time, the government seemed in a comfortable mode on handling the upcoming agitation by Anna Hazare. Government has been shamelessly incredible. But for the first time, Team Anna was on a weakened credibility plank. The erosion in the credibility base of Team Anna that was already on a delicate ground has been significant after spate of controversies post August 2011 agitation and it was visible today as less than expected supporters turned up in Mumbai and in other parts of India. Certainly a gloomy scenario for the common man!
Take 5: Social media has not been so abuzz in the immediate context. Even last time, the Lokpal buzz on social networking sites exploded after government made a mess of the whole situation by arresting Anna Hazare on August 16. That looks unlikely this time as the government Lokpal Bill has already been passed by the Loksabha. We can expect something dramatic during the ‘Jail Bharo’ phase but there is a big ‘but’ as Anna Hazare is having high fever and blood pressure. We need to see what happens tomorrow.
For the moment, the quantum of the differences seems to outdo the mileage of the similarities to set a positive tone for the agitation.
So who is the loser? So who can be the loser?
Certainly you and me! The way parliament debated the bill today, intent of the parliamentarians across the political lines was clear that no one wanted a strong Lokpal Bill. They believe that they are above you and me and so cannot be treated under laws made for the common man. Many opponents of the Bill (not supporting Anna Hazare but for their own silly, selfish reasons) decided to walk out instead of participating in the voting process and the coterie includes groups like the Left, SP, BSP, RJD. That smells of some backchannel deal. If the trend continues, no wonder the Bill would be passed in the Rajya Sabha where the UPA combine is just 91 as opposed to the 136 members of the BJP and the Left combine. All cronies may come together to shamelessly cheat the common man, once again.
So it is the moment for us, the prospective losers, to think what went wrong. It is the time for Anna Hazare to think and strategize what went wrong. It is still a possibility that the Bill may not pass the Rajya Sabha voting. That will give an opportunity to mount the pressure again. That will give an opportunity to undo the wrongs done by Anna Hazare and his team members once again.
They need to realize that they need to make this agitation a movement of every Indian. They need to realize that they need thousands of self-motivated speakers for the cause of the anti-corruption movement and not just three/four now visibly controversial faces.