Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption isn’t significant as much for the fact that he made the government bend. Its import lies in registering the malaise in public consciousness like never before. The issue has acquired the potency of a slogan that could drive voters. It happened once before in 1989 when V P Singh put allegations of slush money in Bofors gun deal in public domain.
The term of the then Lok Sabha was nearing an end and the combined Opposition captured popular imagination way beyond their actual sacrifice by resigning en masse from the lower House. The situation now is different.
The 15th Lok Sabha is less than two years old and Hazare is spewing venom against the political class in one breath and praising a select few in another. The certificate he handed down to Narendra Modi — besides Bihar’s Nitish Kumar — was better avoided. Regardless of his relatively better record of governance, the Gujarat CM evokes extreme reactions that aren’t in the interest of a united fight against corruption sans caste, language, region or religion.
That the BJP strongman has done well to devolve powers to rural bodies and develop rural patches in a hugely urbanized state might well be true. But for some, it isn’t okay to celebrate rural reforms in the killing fields of 20O2. The assembly polls Modi won in the wake of the post-Godhra violence had seen men like Praveen Togadia calling the Mahatma names.
The CM did nothing about it. He was then a big patron of such elements and their communal agenda. Hazare has since sought to limit the damage by clarifying that his praise for Modi does not mean that he condoned the riots. I trust him. But he’d need to do more to get on his side a wider section of people including clean and saner political elements without whose support he’d have problems sustaining the anti-corruption crusade. I say this because respectable men like the SP’s Mohan Singh and the RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad — both former socialists associated with Jayaprakash Narayan— have questioned his tactics while supporting the cause he’s espousing.
JP couldn’t have defeated Indira Gandhi’s Congress without the passion and integrity of socialists of varied hue and the logistical support of the cadre-based RSS. Hazare does not have one (socialists’ backing) and he cannot afford to overtly align with the other (the Sangh) as the torchbearer of the Mahatma’s values. The saffron brigade has in recent years acquired so much communal baggage that it’s companionship is a liability in social and political terms.
Rather than rejecting the political class lock, stock and barrel, Hazare must permit in his fold those willing to give up power to work for cleansing the system. He can of course evolve his own strict criterion (based on probity and past record) to sew up such alliances. These kind of tie-ups are essential because democracy is sustained by the poor, the below poverty line people, not by the vocal middle and upper middle classes given to conspicuous consumption and commodity fetish.
In the candle light vigils and hunger strikes Hazare’s marshaled is metros and million-plus cities had negligible participation from the real victims of corruption — moral, physical, social and financial. If he has to succeed, he’d have to wean such sections away from the Naxalites. More ironically, the media that rooted for Hazare hasn’t had much time for the weaker sections — tribals, dalits, peasants, small farmers and minorities — who take the brunt of the establishment’s corrupt ways and big businesses’ relentless profiteering and rape of natural resources.
The media is either a beneficiary or an adjunct of such vested interests. Its does stings on elected representatives but not the moneybags who buy them to manipulate the system. As the battle is perceptional, Hazare, while pursuing the Lok Pal Bill and its enactment by Parliament, must take steps for public audit and voluntary disclosures by his own self and those in his inner circle. This must include NGOs, Gurus and God men claiming authorship of the anti-graft movement Anna now presides over. It’s easier said than actually making these sections fall in line.
Streets were stirred and social networking sites activated in Hazare’s support by camp followers and worshippers of these so-called spiritual gurus who now must come clean on the empires they have built. Or else the movement against corruption will be a utopian dream. Charity as the cliché goes begins from home. The accountability debate can only be led by setting personal example.
Gandhi did not travel by choppers. He owned no palatial ashrams and television channels. He told us rich held the wealth as trustees of the poor: “I am inviting those people who consider themselves as owners today to act as trustees, i.e., owners, not in their own right, but owners in the right of those whom they have exploited.
Supposing I have come by a fair amount of wealth—either by way of legacy, or by means of trade and industry—I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood, no better than that enjoyed by millions of others.
The rest of my wealth belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community.” So it isn’t just about bribe takers. It is also about those who make money talk.