The movement against corruption is largely reflective of middle-class anger against the lack of governance and rampant big-ticket corruption in high places, and Arvind Kejriwal and his cohorts are more representative of this class than Hazare, with his rural roots.
India Against Corruption (IAC) represents people who are unhappy with conventional politics, and bitter about the complete political sidelining of the urban middle class. This class may not always vote in elections, but it wants to be heard nevertheless.
What then explains the widespread assumption that Anna is the leader of the movement?
The answer lies in how the movement started, and how it evolved. As Firstpost noted as early as August last year, Kejriwal’s original idea was to use the Right to Information Act (RTI) an instrument of change. He, along with Manish Sisodia, started a campaign – on social media and elsewhere in 2009-10 – to lobby against reserving the post of Chief Information Commissioner under the RTI for ex-bureaucrats. He propped up Kiran Bedi for the post, but the campaign did not yield results.
But soon after this, corruption started hitting the headlines with unfailing regularity. From CWG to 2G, it seemed big-ticket corruption had no challenger. Around the same time, the Bhushans – father Shanti and son Prashant – were beginning their public interest litigation (PIL) in the 2G scam, and they joined forces.
It was only when the movement shifted focus from RTI to corruption that Kejriwal & Co saw the need for a public face with a larger-than-life image. And who better than squeaky clean Anna Hazare, a fellow Magsaysay Award winner and Gandhian figure, to serve the mascot for the movement?
It was a movement in search of a public face to lead the agitation, and Anna fitted the bill well in 2010. That is how Team Anna was born – the Team first, Anna next.
However, that there is both a generational difference and also a class divide between Team Anna and Hazare is crystal clear.
As we noted even last year, the new middle class – a product of the 1991 reforms and half a decade of super-fast growth, urbanisation, and the consumer society – has been sidelined for too long by politicians. It is impatient to exert its new demographic clout.
Remember, India is 32 percent urban, according to the 2011 census. A third of India is not rural, and not amenable to the same kind of handout politics practiced by the Gandhis over the last four decades. It is educated, well-informed, social-media savvy, and impatient for quick-fixes, especially in terms of delivery of basic governance. It would prefer a CEO to run its metros and towns, not politicians.
Firstpost wrote last year that for the new middle class, “Corruption and bribery are obstacles to its progress. This is why it is backing the Jan Lokpal Bill. It may not know anything about the Bill’s specifics, or the Draconian nature of the Hazare version of it. But it will back the Bill just because it promises to put the fear of god into netas and babus. This is something close to its heart.”
This new middle class was all for Anna when he was the mascot – but now realises that it actually has little in common with him and his Spartan image. Or, for that matter, with Baba Ramdev. In fact, Anna and Baba are a closer fit than Anna and his Team.
Anna’s time as leader of the movement is over. He is a good name to have as an elder figure, a kind of Leader Emeritus, but it is the Kejriwals and Sisodias who must lead the next charge on the ground.
Success, of course, is another matter. The urban brigade that Team Anna attracts is fickle, and does not have the stamina for long struggles.
But if anyone can sustain their interest, it is easier to bet on the original Team minus Anna. They can at least vibe well with this new middle class.