Team Anna is losing its message and its audience

Earlier the magic was in the use of the umbrella word “Corruption”. It was all things to all people. Now, when Kejriwal and his cohorts take a new tack and attack specific ministers, the issue is of no concern to large sections of the population.

Anant Rangaswami July 27, 2012 12:28:03 IST
Team Anna is losing its message and its audience

The most generous estimate of the peak gathering at the protest by India against Corruption at Jantar Mantar yesterday is in the region of 2000. At the lowest point, the crowd has been estimated to be around 500.

The morning papers cover the rally in a perfunctory manner, much as they would attend a press conference of a large brand.

What’s changed? Is the country no longer concerned about corruption?

No. The country is still as concerned about corruption and is as eager as it was a year ago, that something is done to deal with the scourge.

It’s the messaging of Arvind Kejriwal and key members of the IAC which has changed.

Team Anna is losing its message and its audience

If the anti-corruption movement is to get back on track, it needs to get back to the simplicity of the messaging. Promise people a Lokpal, continue the fight for a Lokpal, and the crowds will throng the venues once again. PTI

Last year, when Anna Hazare began his fast in April, his message was simple: End corruption. The route to the removal of corruption was the passing of a strong and effective Lokpal Bill.

That’s all that people needed to hear, understand and absorb — and rally around.

The simple message “End corruption” was truly universal. The message resonated with the poorest of the poor, with the middle classes, with the rich, with supporters of all political parties, indeed, even with many government servants.

Which of them had not experienced the pain of having to corrupt someone to help solve a problem or end a misery?

Each supporter of Anna Hazare imagined an end to “his” corruption. So a villager might have imagined never having to bribe a postal officer, a slum dweller imagined never having to bribe a municipal official, a salaried employee imagined never having to bribe an Income Tax officer or an employee at the passport office, and an industrialist imagined never having to bribe a senior bureaucrat or a minister.

Anna Hazare, with his magic message, was the saviour of all, despite each of his supporters having different aspirations.

The magic was in the use of the umbrella word “Corruption”. It was all things to all people.

Now, when Kejriwal and his cohorts take a new tack and attack specific ministers, the issue is of no concern to large sections of the population. The villager is suddenly ignored and forgotten, as are the slum dweller, the salaried classes, and the industrialist. The solutions that Kejriwal and team aspire to are not solutions to the vast majority of the supporters of the movement in August 2011.

Worse, their targeting, in the rally, only ministers of the UPA paint them as anti-Congress and pro-BJP, even as instances of corruption in BJP ruled states hit the headlines frequently.

Understanding the charges that the IAC accuse the ministers of being guilty of requires assimilation of details and nuances — far too complicated for their average supporter. More importantly, why should he bother to try and understand the finer points of issues which, in his opinion, do not concern him?

If the anti-corruption movement is to get back on track, it needs to get back to the simplicity of the messaging. Promise people a Lokpal, continue the fight for a Lokpal, and the crowds will throng the venues once again.

Continue to complicate the message, slicing and dicing ‘corruption’ into specific instances of graft, and the movement succeeds, sadly, in slicing and dicing the support base.

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