It was mostly comedy to begin with, now it is a farce. It is rather distressing to note that the powerful Team Anna would need the services of Baba Ramdev to salvage its fast fest. So much for the claim of being the people’s voice!
It’s the right time to ask Team Anna which people it represents. The crowds have been sparse and disinterested at Jantar Mantar. The idealistic and energetic urban youth of last year have been conspicuous by their absence. So were the euphoric general public. Let’s not blame them. They have not lost interest in the fight against corruption. They are simply tired of the antics of the people leading the movement. Anna Hazare still remains an undiminished strong moral force. One hopes he rebuilds the movement with new faces.
The touch of frivolity to the movement was visible last year itself. It was evident that its leaders were egomaniacs, who relished being abusive and confrontationist more than waging a decent, purposeful struggle for a good cause. Their movement was not about corruption, it was about something else, politics perhaps. They misread the enthusiastic public support for the anti-graft crusade for the support for the team. They were mixing up the cause with the individuals espousing it.
The all-or-none approach adopted by the team was intriguing. It not only wanted its poorly thought-out and heavily flawed Jan Lokpal Bill to be passed with all commas and full stops intact but also grind the faces of the politicians to the dust while doing it. Why would the highly qualified — all of them are intelligent people with prominent standing in their chosen fields — members take a position like that? Didn’t they know they can arm-twist politicians to a point, not beyond that? It was so glaringly foolish. Surely, there was some other design from the beginning.
It’s a movement that could have achieved a lot. It had everything going for it. It had a good cause, a leader who fired popular imagination, media support and good support mobilisation on the ground. It had forced the government, later the entire political class, on the defensive. Imagine where would Team Anna be now had it made a pragmatic compromise then. It would still be strong, popular counterforce to the political class. It had many other things on its agenda, which it could have pursued without much resistance.
Cut to now. It has to depend on Baba Ramdev to get a decent crowd at its venue. It is no secret that the members of Team Anna don’t love the company of the yoga guru much although there’s no open hostility between them. The former has a strong urban bias while the latter derives strength from his rural base. Members of Team Anna claim to have clean public image while Baba Ramdev’s business empire in ayurveda is open to suspicions. The causes are different too. But for Anna Hazare they would not be on the same platform.
It was obvious today that Ramdev had become more prominent than Team Anna. It transpires that he brought in his supporters from Ramlila Maidan to Jantar Mantar after an SOS from the latter, who wanted a face-saver after the dismal turnout. The irony of it is he has a much weaker cause in black money and he has nothing concrete to ask the government for. By contrast, Team Anna had at least something definite to seek for. In all likelihood, Team Anna would play second fiddle to the yoga guru now on.
It is also possible that Anna Hazare would renew his movement with Ramdev as equal partner. This would mean the sidelining of hardliners like Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. But there’s a catch here too. Ramdev could be overestimating his popularity. And the political class is not particularly scared of him. Team Anna has been exposed now, it is possible he would go the same way after a few days. It would mean near death of both movements.
Is there a way the anti-corruption movement could be revived to its earlier strength? The prospect looks difficult now. But one hopes Anna pulls off a miracle.