I have not commented on Anna Hazare since he parted with India Against Corruption (IAC) in 2012 over the decision to form a political party. I was present in the Constitution Club when it was to be decided if the movement will turn into a party. It was a divided house.
I put a simple question to Anna - "Why had corruption increased exponentially in Maharashtra despite him sitting on hunger strikes regularly and six ministers resigning because of him and the corruption charges against them?" I said though six ministers had resigned due to him, corruption had increased 600 times. Anna was livid, did not like my question; apparently, he did not have any answer either. When he came out of the meeting, he rather tersely told the media that he was not in favour of forming a party, and he would not allow the new party to use his name and picture.
Anna at that time was an icon. It was a great setback to those hopeful of forming a party. A party without Anna Hazare's blessing was an impossibility. It was assumed that it won't have any future. Anna after that has never lost an opportunity to criticise AAP and its leadership, especially Arvind Kejriwal. He is believed to have said many times that he never wanted India Against Corruption to join politics. The truth is the opposite. In a meeting that I attended at Prashant Bhushan's place, it was discussed in the presence of Anna Hazare that the social movement had lost its relevance and the only alternative was to form a political party and contest elections. Anna was in agreement. Himachal Pradesh was chosen as the first destination for the new party. A team led by Manish Sisodia was sent to Himachal as a forward team to do the recee.
It is a great mystery as to why Anna Hazare changed his track. What transpired? Who influenced his thought process? I have my reasons to believe that the RSS was working behind the scenes, though at the same time I don't subscribe to the theory that the movement was a creation of the RSS. The RSS might have provided their volunteers, and these volunteers would have participated in the movement, but to assume that they controlled it is a figment of the imagination of conspiracy theorists. My sources confided that the RSS did try to hijack the movement and wanted to use it for their gains and was the reason for the discord between Arvind and Anna. I firmly believe that Anna was influenced by the RSS via Baba Ramdev to change his mind. I distinctly remember that from the Constitution Club, he had directly gone to a farm house in outer Delhi which belonged to a man who had close proximity with the RSS and when TV cameras caught him, he was very embarrassed. Ramdev was with him in the car.
AAP was formed without Anna Hazare and as they say, the rest is history. Anna is now again on an indefinite hunger strike to demand the Lokpal. Will he succeed is the big question. Will the nation again rise to his call like it did in 2011? I have my doubts. Four non existent factors will not let his dharna be a success this time.
One, in 2011, the country was in a different psychological zone. The movement against corruption in India was not an isolated incident, it had a very strong link with the global phenomenon, that was construed as a revolt against the establishment, which had its origin in Tunisia. The "Arab Spring" spread all across the Middle East and changed the political landscape. Dictators like Hosni Mubarak And Colonel Gaddafi were thrown out of power by public revolt. The Western Hemisphere was also besieged by Occupy Wall Street against financial mismanagement. India was also reeling under serious charges of corruption. The Manmohan Singh government was dubbed the most corrupt government ever. There was anger against the government. Today, there is disenchantment with Modi's regime, but not of the same proportion. People on the streets are upset but will they march on the road against Modi, of that I am not sure.
Two, in 2011, TV channels played a very crucial role. The day Anna sat on the dharna at Janta Mantar, there was wall-to-wall coverage. It was this 24X7 coverage which shook the government and ignited people. Today, I don't see the same happening. TV has changed tremendously in the last seven years. It is no longer people's voice, a voice of dissent; it has become His Master's Voice. Arun Shourie calls it "North Korean media". The TV warriors of 2011 have become the stooges of the Modi government. And without TV coverage, I don't see Anna's dharna going anywhere or catching the popular imagination.
Three, I have no idea about his present team. In 2011, there was a well-structured team. It was led by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia. Not many people are aware that the Anna Movement was not the original brain child of Anna Hazare. Anna was incidental. After the Commonwealth Games scam, it was decided by Arvind and his team that a movement could be created against corruption.
Arvind,despite winning the Magsaysay award as an RTI activist, was not popularly known like he is today. He needed somebody who could anchor the movement and be its face. It was in this process that Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Kiran Bedi, Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan were contacted, the idea was floated, and the team was assembled.
In one of the rallies in Delhi in the month of January 2011, Anna was not even considered the star speaker. He was one of many. But in the process of elimination, it was decided that Anna, with the experience of several hunger strikes against corruption, was the right choice. To be fair to him, his moral capital was much higher than others. So he was chosen as the face. This movement catapulted Anna to the national level, he was compared with Gandhi and JP, but not many people knew the real creator of the movement was Arvind Kejriwal and his team. Today, there is no Kejriwal to weave the magic.
Four, without any disrespect to Anna, let us also face the fact that Anna in 2011 was a new commodity, he was raw. But in 2018, he is nationally known. He is no longer the enigma that he was made out to be in 2011. People now know him inside and out. In fact, three years ago, he did try to address a rally at Ram Lila ground, but it turned out to be a fiasco. I had written in my book, "Anna, 13 Days That Awakened India", that Anna should be kept away from TV cameras and talk less to the press, which he did not heed. I advised this because I believe that those who are created by TV are killed by TV. A safe distance from TV is the best option. Anna has done so many flip-flops in the last seven years that he is no more enigmatic, nor does he carry the same moral force.
Nonetheless, I do want him to succeed and I warmly extend my good wishes.
(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)
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