Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Right man at the right time

hatever you call it, Annaism or Anna fever or Anna mania, the inevitable has happened in India. The relentless fight against corruption initiated by the 74-year-old about 25 years back has finally been taken up by his fellow countrymen. It is the biggest explosion of poetic justice in contemporary Indian political scenario, and that too in the form of an apolitical movement.
How long can a man’s sincere efforts be sidelined and go unnoticed? How long the authorities could blink over the real issues of over one billion people and claim growth rate in percentages and dollars? There comes Anna’s magic entry — quoting Prime Minister Manmohan, it is an effort “to trip parliamentary democracy.”

By making such an allegation against Hazare and his supporters, Singh was expressing his anguish over the massive protests that erupted across the country. When corruption has become a way of life among the bureaucracy and judiciary, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil, the mighty executive heads in Indian federal system, instead of giving an assurance in finding an eternal solution to the grave issue, washed off their hands and said, “there is no single panacea for corruption.”

May be the prime minister and president are clean, but it is their duty to make sure that their colleagues are also clean. Sadly, even Manmohan who boasts of a clean image did not dare to remove his tainted colleague (former telecom minister A. Raja) until the opposition took up the issue. The opposition who exposed 2G spectrum scam in the parliament failed to carry forward the momentum and make the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government effectively deal with corruption. Since then the country has witnessed so many protests against corruption. Even Hazare, who has now become synonymous with the anti-corruption movement, went into a 4-day hunger strike in April asking the government to pass an anti-graft bill, which the parliament has failed to introduce in the House eight times.

For an entire nation, which looked for someone to lead from the front, Hazare became one last hope. People reposed their trust in parliamentary democracy rallying behind him. In a democracy, it is the will of the people that takes shape of rules and regulations. And people entrust that huge task to the elected executive. But the Indian politicians became so shameless that instead of serving the majority who voted them to power, they loved to be dictated by a handful of corporate giants and investors who wanted to make use of a thriving economy. It is this giant mistake from the politicians, from left to right, built up a generation allergic to politicians. Many doubted such an “aimless” apolitical generation. But nobody saw the raging fire hidden in their apolitical attire.

Hazare ignited that spark and hence the ongoing protests. Majority of protesters in Anna’s crusade against graft is born after independence. Most of them have only text-book knowledge about freedom struggle and other civil rights movements in the country. For such a big lot, Anna has given a rare opportunity to take part in the country’s decision-making process.
The biggest mistake from the Manmohan government is a lack-lustre attitude to the elderly’s fight. Manmohan who has seen Maoists as the biggest internal security threat failed to see a backstage preparation that amassed the country’s youth for Anna’s silent revolution. There also the Indian youth kept their long tradition of respecting and obeying the elderly. The jeans-clad youth did not find any problem in accepting khadi-clad activists. Many wondered whither gone the generation gap?

Looking at youth-led movements in other countries, India’s youth is showing an unusual restraint in their agitation. No doubt, it is because of the 74-year-old Gandhian. If he adopts a “do or die” policy, things will become worse. On his sixth day of his indefinite strike, Hazare has warned the government of an “unprecedented revolution.” With the massive support, it is not difficult for him to lead such a big fight. Now the buck stops with the prime minister. With UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi being hospitalised in a cancer hospital in USA, Manmohan is facing the challenge of his entire life. Nobody knows what Sonia’s condition is or whether she will return soon to assist the PM in dealing with the issue.

So true to his nature, Manmohan has offered olive branch to the protesters and showed his much-appreciated diplomatic side. Responding to Hazare’s threatening call to adopt his version of anti-graft bill called Jan Lokpal Bill, the prime minister said he is “open for all kind of discussion and suggestion.” To quell a civil rights movement is not that easy as leading a party or a handful of ministerial colleagues. When Hazare announced his indefinite public fast, without much thinking, the Delhi Police decided to arrest him. As soon as the arrest news flashed across the television screens, in no time, thousands took to the streets across the country surprising the government and even the civil rights activists.

It has become a big blow to the country’s opposition especially the Left parties who were supposed to take such a big fight in the common interest of the country. They were shocked to see crowds marching behind an old man wearing Gandhi cap and waving national flag. People united for a cause forgetting their petty differences for a large cause. According to historians, Hazare’s agitation is similar to Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement, which led to the downfall of Indira Gandhi government in 1977. Unlike Jayaprakash Narayan or JP, Hazare, at least for now, is free of any political bondage. Though the presence of self-styled godmen aka yoga gurus Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar in Hazare’s camp have raised the suspicion of Anna’s alleged link with Hindu fundamental outfits, the common man is least bothered. Sometimes, the end justifies the means. 

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