As the dust settles on the news of the mother of all divorces (the Anna Hazare-Arvind Kerjriwal one) we’ll see a period of relative calm. There will be the hurt that accompanies all such failed marriages (please do not use my images or name in your campaigning, says Anna Hazare, for example), but, finally, the two worthies will be back to attempting to do what they originally attempted to do – rid the country of corruption.
It’s almost exactly a year ago when the anti-corruption movement was at its peak – and a large section of India’s middle class had believed that the Anna-Kejriwal combine had miraculously created the magic potion that would, in one fell swoop, rid India of one of the biggest ills plaguing the country.
The rest, as they say, is history. Politics prevailed, and the anti-corruption brigade was found wanting when it came to the crunch – the politicians, all of them, put paid to the best laid plans of Anna and Kejriwal. By the end of 2011, it was clear that there would be no Lokpal in a hurry; in a few months, there was doubt whether there would be a Lokpal of any kind at all.
As Team Anna came to terms with the reality, and went back to the drawing board, it was apparent that things would never be the same again – that Anna Hazare had a point of view, that Arvind Kejriwal had a point of view and that the twain may not always meet.
Even if they seem to share the same objective, that of ridding the country of corruption, the two have opted for different ways to get to the same destination. One, Anna Hazare, wants to continue on the activist route, and the other, Arvind Kejriwal, wants to pursue an active, political route.
Which route will work?
Neither – unless each decides to start from scratch.
The tragedy is that the ‘movement’ has nothing to build upon.
The last time around, the two promised to rid the country of corruption, and the public, by and large, bought into the dream. They followed the Anna-Arvind Kejriwal duo with an emotional zest, putting aside all rational and common sense. They were true believers, needing no ‘reason’ to follow; they carried on supporting the movement with the continuously increasing hope that the movement would deliver.
The movement didn’t.
This time around, it’s going to be difficult to sell the people a dream. They’ve bought the dream once, they’ve been let down; they’re not going to buy the dream again.
Last year, if Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal together were a pair of entrepreneurs seeking venture capital funding, they would have been the darling of funds. Billions would have been written, as happens in that mad space, without too many questions, because they seemed to be so clearly the flavour of the day.
One year on, things have changed. No more mad, emotional funding would follow. Anna and Kejriwal would have to answer basic questions, such as:
a) Can you please define your product
b) Who will want to buy the product?
c) Are there similar products in the market?
d) Do you have a proof of concept?
e) Is the concept scalable?
f) What is the uniqueness of your product?
g) Can it stand the test of time?
As Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal embark on a new chapter in their fight against corruption, it’s going to hit them just how much things have changed in the past year. One year ago, it seemed that nothing could beat them; today it looks like they’re just another product in an over-crowded market-place, a me-too in a crowded retail shelf.