The fast fest begins tomorrow. Brace yourself for some high voltage action. For a change, Anna Hazare won’t be the central figure in the show; it will be Arvind Kejriwal and his associates Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai. However, Anna, the face of the hugely successful anti-corruption movement last year and it guiding moral force, would be giving company to the trio in its indefinite hunger strike.
There are two additions to the demand this time. Besides seeking a strong Lokpal Bill, Team Anna wants a Special Investigation Team probe the allegation of corruption against ministers and fast track courts to try cases members of Parliament with criminal records. Expect a flurry of allegations and accusations—some genuine, some unsubstantiated—against the ministers and yes, President-elect Pranab Mukherjee is also a target this time. Kejriwal has threatened to make public the 'acts' of corruption involving Mukherjee.
Around this time last year, a clueless political class was running for cover under the attack from the members of Team Anna. The media worked themselves to a frenzy supporting the movement. The urban youth had found a noble cause to fight for and had discovered a hero in Anna Hazare. The air was loaded with expectation. The government had started bending under pressure and a Lokpal Act was still a possibility. However, the mood this time is more subdued. There’s no big expectation this time around.
What has changed? The politics around it, to begin with. Team Anna's initial fight was against the government. It offered ample opportunity to the rival parties to cash in on the public mood and nail the government. The UPA, more specifically the Congress, stood isolated and cornered. The BJP indulged in some clever double talk, trying to manipulate the situation to its advantage. However, as the Lokpal bill moved to Parliament, it was clear that no political party, including the BJP, was keen on it. The intensity of the movement petered off once the anti-Congress, anti-UPA fizz went out of it.
After the developments in Parliament, the UPA has reason to feel safe. It is free construe the numerous objections to the Lokpal Bill from all parties as vindication of its position on the issue. Now, it can claim that it can not push a bill against the wish of Parliament. It will also try to plead helplessness citing the lack of numbers. However, that is no solace for the government. Once this phase of the movement gathers steam, it will be the target again. Anna today charged it with 'cheating' and 'betrayal' and the accusation will only get more bitter and personal in the coming days.
The public mood is no more the same. The fawning appreciation of last year has gradually given way to sneaking suspicion about the real motive about the movement. Its many indiscretions apart, Team Anna has indicated that it was not averse to joining politics. This probably, is one of the reasons why it deliberately maintains an inflexible position on the Lokpal issue. It wants to maintain the heat till 2014 and use corruption as a poll plank. It does suit Team Anna if the issue dies out.
There’s also the growing feeling that the team is unreasonable and not capable of negotiations. People are also aware of the fact that throwing allegations at leaders does not help. The leaders of the anti-corruption movement have the option to move the court. The novelty factor in it is gone. The team is also overdoing fast as a protest technique.
In the gap between the Parliament session in December last and now, the team was expected to broaden its base by reaching out to semi-urban and rural areas. However, the movement still remains New Delhi-centric. The efforts to expand the catchment area by joining cause with Baba Ramdev has not gone down well with many original supporters of the anti-corruption movement. In simple words, it has not grown.
So what can we expect in the next few weeks? A lot of noise. Little beyond that.