March 21, 2014



Source: India Today
It was August 2011. As the seventy-four year old Gandhian and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare gave a clarion call to the country to unite for the passage of the Lokpal Bill, thousands came out in his support. In Bangalore as hundreds of IT professionals came out on the streets to form a human chain to show their solidarity to the cause, I and my friends joined the agitation too. As the government finally buckled under pressure, Anna became the toast of the nation. His fast-unto-death had awakened the consciousness of a nation that seemed to be drifting from the path that our founding fathers wanted us to follow while on its quest to become a super power. It was just a matter of time before one realized that the social activist had been betrayed by the politicians who knew that their powers would be curbed if the Jan Lokpal Bill, as formulated by Anna and his aides was to pass through the Parliament. Over the last two years, Hazare has raised the issue of corruption several times. However, he has never been able to get the kind of support that one witnessed in the winter of 2011. One of the reasons for this, at least in my opinion has been the fact that his credibility has taken a massive beating. After hobnobbing with several political parties and then 'ditching' them, you cannot expect the masses to still rally behind you.

A look at the events in the last two years shows that the Gandhian has done business with outfits across India's political landscape and later abandoned them. During the height of the 2011 agitations, as thousands of BJP and RSS workers lent their support to the erstwhile 'Team Anna', the activist was all praise for Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. Anna, who himself has done a lot in the field of rural development in his home state of Maharashtra had asked other CMs in the country to emulate their work in this regards. His kind words for Modi, whose role in the 2002 Gujarat riots is under the scanner had not gone well even with some of his ardent supporters. However, in a visit to Gujarat in 2013, he lambasted the BJP's PM nominee for his failure to appoint a Lokayukta in the state. Though he had targeted the Congress during his earlier rallies, accusing them of not being tough against graft, he did a complete volte-face as he wrote a letter to party Vice President Rahul Gandhi for his role in passing the Lokpal and the Lokayukta Bills in the Parliament. This even as the legislations were different from the ones draft by Hazare and his team two years ago. As if these U-turns were not enough, he publicly endorsed Mamata Bannerjee's candidature for the post of the country's next PM a few weeks back, hailing her as the only leader capable of tackling corruption. He even made an appearance in Trinamool's TV advertisements, asking people to vote for the Bengal CM. Buoyed by this the TMC chief decided to give wings to her national dreams by holding joint rallies with the Gandhian, first in Delhi and another in Ahmedabad. However, hours before the Delhi rally, the septuagenarian ditched Didi. In an interview to media when he was quizzed about his absence, he accused the organizers of failing to get the crowds. Moreover, he declared that he only supported Mamata and not her party. Of course, the question arises as to why he appeared in TMC ads if he never supported the party. And finally, his numerous outbursts against his former right hand man Arvind Kejriwal are well known.

While I am unhappy with Anna's flip-flops, it does not take away from all the good work that he has done in the past. After leaving the army in the 1960s, he came back to his village of Ralegan Siddhi and set out transforming it. Over the years, he helped in the upliftment of this and several nearby villages. His work in rural development with the active participation of local communities was appreciated and won him the Padma Bhushan in 1992. Besides, it was his indefinite hunger strike that brought the issue of corruption in the limelight, thereby pressuring our Netas and Babus. Moreover, Anna's role model - Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation too was known for 'changing his mind' on issues throughout his life. The point I want to emphasize is that thanks to his myriad U-turns, Anna's credibility has certainly taken a hit owing to his short lived 'associations' with various political parties. By changing his stance on politicians in such short time spans, he is damaging his own image. We all know that history can be extremely cruel. It may only remember Anna as a man of contradictions who could never stick to his words. Of course, having done so much social service in his life, he certainly deserves more respect than this. It is up to him. The anti-corruption crusader will have to choose his words rightly and follow it up with actions too.


(1) Source: India Today 
Original: Anna Hazare denies praising Modi, say BJP's agenda is communal (Link)