Dying by the sword

I do not know how much truth there is to this story. But G R Khairnar, former deputy municipal commissioner of the Birhanmumbai Municpal Corporation (BMC) in the 1990s, famous for having taken on among the mightiest of chief ministers, Sharad Pawar, and credited with having brought about his (and the Congress’s) downfall in Maharashtra in 1995 has described Anna Hazare as a “coward’’ and a “murderer’’.

Khairnar, himself a loose cannon like Hazare, says he got the story straight from the horse’s mouth. When they were together in a campaign against Pawar in 1995, Hazare apparently told Kharinar that he had saved his life during the 1971 Indo-Pak war by running away from the battle scene. He was driving a truck carrying many Indian jawans and saw the Pakistani attack coming. He jumped out of the truck in the nick of time just as Pakistani cannon blew up the truck, killing all the soldiers. “Hence he is a coward and a killer.’’

Khairnar has even recently questioned Anna’s Gandhian credentials after this act of cowardice and said it will now be his mission to expose the man who would be Mahatma Gandhi.

Whatever the truth (or otherwise) to the story, it is obvious that Hazare is indeed a loose cannon and he is now once again abandoning his vehicle – this time not to save his life but his reputation. Full of bluster against the Congress and certain in his ability to bring about the party’s defeat in the coming elections to the five states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, Anna now feigns illness and does not see the fight through to the finish. Team Anna is abandoned midway and, like those poor, unfortunate soldiers all those decades ago, they might now well find themselves blown up by the UPA’s cannon fire. Without Anna Hazare to steer them clear and stand as a rock of Gibraltar between them and the government, the UPA is now sure to complete the process of the decimation of Team Anna.

I would like to say, “I told you so.’’ For, I always knew this was bound to happen. I can only go by the cliché: people in glass houses (as most of the prominent members of Team Anna are) should never throw stones at others. Kiran Bedi and the Bhushans already stand exposed, not once but twice over. As for Arvind Kejriwal, apart from the controversy over the kind of unaccounted money his NGO allegedly collected during the anti-corruption agitation, people in the government are beginning to speak up, even if sotto voce for the moment, about his motives which, they suggest, seem not wholly altruistic.

I have it on high authority from the PMO that Kiran Bedi was not just cheesed off with the Congress for not making her New Delhi’s police commissioner (apparently every one of the intelligence reports necessitated during such a process went against her) but also furious at being turned down for the post of the Chief Information Commissioner, post-retirement. And Kejriwal has a similar grouse for being allegedly denied the contract in Bihar to run the Right to Information complaints proposed to be made on telephones, which would have given him an all pervasive, overpowering presence in the country (and not just Bihar).

“I am not saying that he wanted to make money or was going to be corrupt. But the PMO believed that such vast powers cannot be given to any NGO. Any such scheme would have to be both handled and closely monitored by the government,’’ the man who advised the Prime Minister against committing that particular blunder told me in no uncertain terms.

But, strangely, the government was somewhat cowed down by the larger-than-life images of both Bedi and Kejriwal and now it was left to the people of Bombay to show them their place in the scheme of things. But I was startled the other day when an unimpeachable source told me that the thin crowds in Bombay during Anna’s three-day fast in December (called off within a day) was not just on account of the people’s ennui or the fact that Bombay is too busy a city to bother with other people’s agitations.

From what I understood, the RSS and the BJP were the ones who had decided to put Anna in his place: apparently they were mad that he had been doing his abandoning act again by distancing himself from the saffron forces who were said to be the masterminds behind the Indian Against Corruption movement. So they refused to rally crowds behind him in Bombay — apart from the fact that they could anyway have got nowhere without the co-operation of the Shiv Sena in India’s commercial capital (and the Shiv Sena was not playing ball, as everyone knows), the RSS itself was making no efforts.

When a Bombay journalist proudly claimed that his city was far more sensible than New Delhi, I am told, a BJP ideologue told him, “Its not that Bombay is any different; its that we decided not to support Hazare any longer.’’

No wonder, then, that Anna has called off his campaign to the five states – in addition to the fact that the Congress is better placed than its opposition in all five states going to polls (including UP where, by all accounts, it is slated to vastly improve its position), an anti-Congress campaign would not just expose that Anna has no influence on the voters’ minds as the Congress-NCP sweep of the municipal council polls in Maharashtra, including his own Ahemdnagar district, last month shows). How would Team Anna also have justified the corruption indulged in by other parties including Mayawati’s BSP and the BJP against which they have not spoken out a word? And that was the question by an incisive Bombay journalist that literally drove Anna off the stage as he broke his fast on December 28, leaving Kejriwal with the lame excuse that Anna could not answer because of his cough. (Anna had no cough.)

Now, on another plane, at least Mayawati sacked some of her corrupt ministers. But I am absolutely stunned that the BJP had no good sense at all in not accepting her rejects. I am told that Babulal Kushwaha, who has now been raided by the CBI for major corruption in the Mayawati government, had first approached the Congress for a ticket. But the Congress had the good sense to check with the CBI, who informed the government that there was incontrovertible evidence against Mayawati’s former minister. So they turned him down but the BJP was tempted by the same reasons that the Congress had considered him in the first place – that he did have a lot of influence among the Kushwaha caste in UP and a few other groups besides. But wisdom did not prevail over the temptation and now they are having to pay the price for their greed.

The sheen has quite been taken off L K Advani’s anti-corruption rath yatra as well as the BJP’s fight over the Lokpal.

But those who live by the sword, it is well known, almost always die by the sword – and that is precisely what seems to have happened to Anna Hazare, Team Anna and the BJP.

Lets say a prayer for all of them.

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