The civil society movement must remain alive and healthy. The country needs it. It’s a good sign that Anna Hazare has decided to revamp Team Anna and start afresh with like-minded people. With Arvind Kejriwal and company out of the mix now, one expects more constructive and purposeful social activism from the new team. Kejriwal brought in an avoidable note of stridency to the movement which ultimately led to its downfall. It’s time to rebuild it from scratch.
Though Kejriwal has decided to go political and be part of the system to fight it, if he manages to stay neutral and throw up a credible alternative to the Congress and the BJP, it will always be a welcome development in Indian polity. It desperately needs some fresh air and new ideas. It’s better if he comes out with a coherent worldview — an ideology to go to people with — soon.
In fact, both the factions of the original Team Anna can work in tandem despite operating in different spaces. Hazare’s social movement can create a stable moral-electoral base for Kejriwal’s party. The latter would be overambitious to be thinking of seats in representative institutions at the moment. It would be refreshing if he combines the roles of a social activist and a politician effectively and makes Anna Hazare’s activities one of his sources of political sustenance.
And yes, he would do well to avoid thinking on the lines of Kiran Bedi, who has been insisting on siding with the BJP as the immediate go-forward strategy. The logic is simple: if you are honest about fighting corruption you should not be making a distinction between the lesser evil and the bigger evil. The distinction is subjective. Kejriwal would still be siding with corruption by being associated with the lesser evil. The taint would be difficult to wash off in future.
This was one of the biggest mistakes committed by Team Anna during their Lokpal agitation. The team led itself to believe that the large contingent of pro-BJP, anti-Congress supporters of the movement were actually sincere about corruption and the Lokpal Bill. It would have realised that the support for the movement collapsed when it became evident that the UPA government was not going to collapse and the team was getting more and more critical of the BJP.
It is not the job of the civil society to bring down governments. It has to play a constructive role in bringing about changes in the system and the society. It is a long drawn process. If Kejriwal is thinking long term, then he must be careful to avoid a repetition. He has to stand up without the crutches and on his own convictions. And he must ensure that there’s no dilution of the core principles in any form.
Coming back to the civil society movement, Anna has promised to restart the Lokpal movement but not make it a single-strand movement. “Taking up the Lokpal issue is not enough to eradicate corruption. There is a need to change the system in its totality,’’ he told reporters recently. He looks patient and ready for the long haul, a certain good signal for the movement. The Lokpal movement wanted to achieve too much too soon and it believed it could coerce the political class to accepting its demand.
It is heartening that Anna has expressed worry about the ongoing impasse over coalgate and the consequent non-functioning of Parliament. “Parliament must function at any cost. People’s money is being wasted because of the fight among the MPs,’’ he told reporters. If he could launch a protest demanding that MPs allow Parliament to function, it would be a great positive step from the civil society. It should be seen as the protector of constitutional institutions too, a role the political class has abdicated for all practical purposes.
What one expects now is a more mature and more alert civil society. One hopes the new Team Anna provides the country that.