No Mahatma Gandhi this

Does anyone take Anna Hazare seriously anymore?

I was not at all surprised when the so-called Gandhian failed to turn up at Mamata Banerjee’s rally in New Delhi after endorsing her as the best politician in the country today – such flip flops are par for the course for the man who would be Mahatma Gandhi.

The only bit of wonder at the moment, to those who know him well enough, is: to whose tune Anna might be playing right now and I will not be surprised if he has sprung back towards his roots. Hhe has always been played by the saffron right wing against various leaders including Sharad Pawar, Bal Thackeray and Gopinath Munde in Maharashtra – Pawar’s absolute powers, Thackeray’s individualism and Munde’s OBC credentials were always under attack from the RSS, If that sounds far-fetched, one only has to go back in time to see how he was played and manipulated by those close to the RSS to expose Munde’s liaison with a tamasha dancer in the mid 1990s – Anna, at that point of time, was not even aware of what he was really exposing (he believed it was a property scam and did not even realise Munde had not been violating any laws when he allotted a house under a government scheme to his paramour.

And never was Anna used more effectively by anyone than Arvind Kejriwal and the volunteers of India Against Corruption — it is amply clear now that while the world believes that an old Gandhian was taking on a mighty government against corruption, it was actually Avind Kejriwal — who otherwise would not have got even a look-in at any door — who was laying his own well thought out plans for his own future through Anna Hazare’s good offices.

I have often said before that Hazare is incapable of independent thought and action and always needs a guiding hand – he would otherwise not have commitred the mistakes of seeking a public account of the money collected in his name (that made him look just greedy) or appealed to BJP president Rajnath Singh to help him build a statue of, well, himself. He would also not have come up with an unsavoury reaction to the slapping of Sharad Pawar by a mad man in New Delhi nor would he have made a public and boastful claim of tying young boys and girls to trees in his village and flogging them for just drinking and being in high spirits.

When I first expressed my poor opinion of Anna Hazare in 2011, saying the entire drama at Jantar Mantar made it look like a real life Peepl Live, I was inundated with hate mail even from people who would ordinarily not have bothered with critics – most people thought pointing out the cyncal truth was some sort of endorsement of corruption.

But, as I said, Anna Hazare had even then been indicted by the Bombay High Court in a scam of his own (embezzlement from his own Hind Swaraj Trust) but the world did not want to acknowledge that Anna could have been misled (I had given him the benefit of doubt even then).

Now what Hazare has become is just a joker in the pack — and Mamata perhaps knew right from the start that his endorsement counted for almost nothing or she would not have risked upsetting the man with statements that did not exactly fit in with the plans of his manipulators. According to my sources, Anna was being used this time to woo Mamata over to the NDA fold but since she has long terms plans to stick around in West Bengal for the next decade or more she had no time of the day for Narendra Modi. And when she made her leanings clear, Anna’s handlers read the writing on the wall and pulled him out of the courtship battle.

Still it is rather disturbing to see him make a mockery of his own self and past reputation, however underserved that might have been. Those of us from the media in his home state were never enamoured of Anna Hazare after the first few movements he undertook against the Pawar and Thackeray governments. I learnt early from one of his earliest associates about Hazare’s limited understanding of issues and later discovered that drawback for myself. However, the one thing that can be said in Anna’s favour is that he is always well meaning and gets rather taken in by anybody who comes to him with an attractive proposal – as Kejriwal did and as a few others might still do in the future. However, it is now a period of diminishing returns for both Anna and those who would wish to use him for their own ends. They should leave him well alone and allow him to live in peace with whatever little he has left of his own self regard and beliefs.

Else he will continue to be treated with the kind of disdain that Mamata Banerjee is showing at the moment – and become the victim of cold blooded cynicism as happened when ministers in the UPA eventually outmaneuvered him and collapsed his movement.

One day he could a very lonely old man banished to the margins of history, For he was never a Mahatma Gandhi.

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