Anna Hazare calls off seven-day fast: Is he no longer the force he was back in 2003 and 2011?
As Anna Hazare called off his seven-day fast for the formation of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in the states, the anti-corruption crusader who once drew thousands to the national capital's central protest grounds must now grapple with his new image as an activist diminished.
Even though Hazare's core considerations have remained the Lokyukta and ease of living for farmers, the media's perception of him has changed
Hazare had given out a message that was not just anti-politician but also anti-rich
At the Yadav Baba temple where Hazare sat on his strike since 30 January, there were only a handful of his followers native to Ralegan Siddhi
Anna Hazare on Tuesday called off his seven-day fast for the formation of a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in the states. At the end of what was the 19th fast of his career as an anti-corruption crusader, Hazare who once drew thousands to the national capital's central protest grounds must now grapple with his new image as a man diminished.
"I have decided to call off my fast after satisfactory talks with Fadnavis and the other ministers," Hazare told reporters. Not many were there, and those that had gone to Ralegan Siddhi village in Ahmednagar were drawn more by the possibility of the fast ending with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis's visit, than the fact that it was happening at all.
Union ministers Radha Mohan Singh and Subhash Bhamre and Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan were also present during Fadnavis's talks with Hazare. Until Tuesday, Mahajan had been the sole link between the administration and Hazare as the hunger strike dragged on.
At the Yadav Baba temple where Hazare sat on his strike since 30 January, there were only a handful of his dogged followers native to Ralegan Siddhi, reported HuffPost. Not one renowned name travelled to the village to join hands with Hazare.
The contrast with his wildly successful fasts in 2003 and 2011 was stark.
The Gandhian activist's 2003 fast, which forced four Maharashtra ministers to quit and led to the enactment of the Right to Information Act in the state, saw social justice crusaders like GP Pradhan, Baba Adhav and Govind Shroff stand by him, reported Times of India.
In 2011, his tent at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi saw Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar and Vishwambhar Choudhuri. Young men and women visited the tent sporting caps like Hazare's and chanted "I am Anna too". For the first time, television channels devoted themselves exclusively to a movement.
Kejriwal went on to become the Chief Minister of Delhi after leaving Hazare's movement and founding the Aam Aadmi Party. Kiran Bedi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and is now the governor of Puducherry. Medha Patkar, still an independent activist devoid of political affiliation, is no longer a part of Hazare's movement.
While on his way out, Vishwambhar Choudhari told Times of India that it was the abysmal lack of buzz surrounding Anna's March 2018 stir in Delhi that drove him to dissociate himself from the movement. "There was no strategy, no planning, no clarity on demands. Earlier, he had a core committee and a process for holding negotiations. Now it is only Anna and the government who do the talking," he had said.
Even though Hazare's core considerations have remained the same — a fair governance aided by the Lokyukta and ease of living for farmers — the media's perception of him changed as well.
Manu Joseph writes on LiveMint that before Hazare's famous Delhi fast in 2011, he was only remotely known as an activist. Editors considered him a puritan and were unaware of the right-wing slant of his beliefs.
As his revolutionary fast began, Hazare gave out a message that was not just anti-politician but also anti-rich. He and his followers lamented that politicians were building roads and airports when farmers were starving. "But when Team Anna saw the support of the urban middle class, the anti-corruption movement became a clearly focused movement against politicians," the opinion piece said.
Soon, it was an anti-Congress movement because by then, the Congress had become the poster child of corruption in the country. However, what urban India viewed as a protest against a corrupt government was soon imbued with Hazare's immense personal liking for the BJP, reported The Washington Post.
A Financial Express report notes that after the Lok Sabha vote on the Jan Lokpal Bill was concluded in 2011, television reporters had asked Hazare what he thought of the BJP, which like the Congress, had not endorsed the essential features of the Lokpal in Parliament. Hazare abruptly got up and walked away, to the utter astonishment of reporters and Arvind Kejriwal, who sitting next to Anna.
As his trusted aides left, so did Hazare's innate trust in the BJP.
"During my Ramlila Maidan agitation on Lokpal and Lokayukta, the entire country stood up. An atmosphere was created. That is the reason why you (BJP) came to power. Now you are betraying the people who brought you to power," Hazare had said before starting his 2019 fast.
"Leaders like Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj had once vehemently defended the Lokpal demand in Parliament. But after coming to power, they are mum over it. It looks like they are allergic to Lokpal and Lokayukta. The agitation brought them to power but they have forgotten it," he had added.
In the years since the BJP government came to power at the Centre, caste issues which had hitherto been expertly handled by Hazare's team, came to receive more prominence thanks to instances of caste and religious violence. Team Anna members had very intelligently not projected their social base in terms of caste configuration, and has been quite smart at using it, observed News18. Anna was made to break his fast by receiving juice from two Dalit children at Ramlila Maidan in 2011.
However, in what is a case of optics aging badly, under laws promulgated over the years to prevent caste-based repression, public declaration of the caste of the two children made a fit case for prosecution of Hazare. And it was the steady escalation of miscalculations like this that drove Hazare out of the headlines.
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