Sickening and tiresome

I am frankly sick and tired of the entire Anna Hazare melodrama. It is apparent to me and many of us from Anna’s home state, even if not to others who see in him a great saviour and a second Mahatma Gandhi, what is happening at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.

It is seeming less and less like Anna’s movement and more like one driven by the personal agendas of Team Anna.

It is not very fashionable to take a contrary position but you will be surprised by how many people at least in Bombay are coming round the same view. My column Anandan ON WEDNESDAY in the Mumbai edition of Hindustan Times this week surprised even me – no, not for what I wrote but for the kind of response it received. Also read. There was that expected amount of flak, of course, but long-lost friends and acquaintances suddenly found me again, strangers flooded my mail box with their messages and all of them felt the same thing: enough was enough.

Then I discovered this excellent piece by Subir Ghosh which put the whole thing in perspective: people in glass houses should not throw stones at others, as he tells Kiran Bedi in no uncertain terms.

But, frankly, the agitation would never have got the kind of support it did had it not been firstly and foremost for the bungling by the UPA with regard to Anna’s arrest and then the long weekends which made the agitation seem even longer.

I always thought the Congress was past master at outmanoeuvring and manipulating its detractors with the kind of actions that would do Machiavelli proud but I guess the UPA government today is a bunch of self-serving lawyers and technocrats who have absolutely no idea about politics being the art of both the possible and the impossible.

Otherwise, they would at least have brought in the three chief ministers from Maharashtra in the union cabinet – Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde — much sooner. All of them have had vast experience of dealing with Anna Hazare without ever reaching such an impasse or crisis point. And they did not get away with not acting on Anna’s demands either.

But the arrogance of those in power and those considered close to the Prime Minister, defeated their own agendas. All of these three ex-chief ministers had similar attitudes: they had not been asked and they did not want to volunteer. As one of them told me, “If I volunteer and things go wrong or out of hand, they will blame me and me alone and my career will be over. But if things go right after my intervention, I will get no credit. So why should I jump in where people better than me also fear to tread?’’

However, ultimately, they did have to ask – both Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh, as well as Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. From unimpeachable sources, I have learnt that long before this gaggle round the Prime Minister slammed Anna in Tihar, they wanted to airlift him to Maharashtra and lodge him either in Ahmednagar or the Khuldabad jail near Aurangabad. Chavan put his foot down saying the issue was a matter for a consensus and not a confrontation with Anna Hazare and he refused to import the law and order situation to his home state.

That, I believe, is the reason why Anna is asking for Chavan as a mediator (though the CM denied this when I asked) because he trusted Chavan more than anybody else not to exacerbate the situation with wrongful arrests or even worse.

But Chavan is reluctant to put his hand in the fire not just because his colleagues in New Delhi know no better but also because he believes neither Bedi nor Kejriwal will allow a peaceful resolution of the matter and it is impossible to deal with their attitudes and positions of accountability to no one. “As lawyers, the Bhushans and Santosh Hegde can be expected to see and understand that the violation of constitutional norms should not take place. But the other two are simply impossible.’’

I agree. And I would really like to see the brinkmanship on both sides end. And I would not want union home minister P Chidambaram and telecom minister Kapil Sibal, who were all along against the talks with Team Anna (they said the talks would lead nowhere), to be proved right.

For if they were right all along, I am afraid our democracy was always very wrong!

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