Anna Hazare has a well-known disdain for electoral politics as it is played today, and with good reason. The current electoral system is clearly weighted in favour of money power and muscle power, and as Anna himself has observed earlier, voter loyalty among certain constituencies can be easily bought.
Why then is he even saying that the anti-corruption movement that he spearheads will consider entering the political fray?
It’s perhaps an inevitable progression for what is at its core an intensely political movement that, for no fault of its own, appears to have advanced as much as it possibly can as a political “outsider”. When Team Anna began its campaign last year, it garnered overwhelming popular support with its message stating the need for a strong and independent anti-corruption agency. But since then, as we’ve seen, it has not been able to translate popular goodwill into legislative action.
The brutally honest assessment is that the entire political establishment has effectively neutered the demand for a strong and independent anti-corruption agency.
And the gradual erosion of mass popular goodwill, demonstrated in the thin attendance at his rallies and fasts, only demonstrates the challenges of sustaining a movement forever.
Which is why it perhaps makes sense for Anna to transform his movement into a political party. Even if it does that, it doesn’t have to become just another political party. Despite the challenges it faces in the twisted political arena, it can change the way politics is played in India.
What it lacks in money power, it can make up for with a bottom-up movement. In any case, as we saw with the defeat of the DMK in Tamil Nadu last year, money power stands no chance when a people are set on throwing out a corrupt regime.
Even if the Anna-led moment only turns out to be a one-issue party, that issue – corruption — is right at the top of people’s consciousness in India. Anna’s team has demonstrated a vision for changing the system and has a volunteer force that can more than compensate for the money power of its opponents with a boots-on-the-ground campaign.
Moments such as this come only once in a generation. By a curious alignment of planets, Anna Hazare has captured the imagination of an India that is crying out for fundamental change. It is time for it to seize the moment, stop being an outsider that has exhausted its influence as a change agent, enter electoral politics and recreate an India in its own image.