The easy stretch is over for Team Anna, the hard work begins now
Team Anna has scored important victories over the bungling government in the last few days but it might find itself in tough territory once the real debate over Jan Lokpal Bill begins.
The last three days have been a smooth ride for Team Anna as it notched one victory after another against a confused, bungling and seemingly rudderless government.
But the party seems to be over as far as easy successes go.
The war is far from over even though Team Anna has won a few battles in the last few days giving a fillip to the morale of its ranks and leaving its opponents licking its wounds. The government may be humiliated, bruised and on the defensive, but a rearguard action cannot be ruled out.
The rules of the game may also suit the government going forward. No big emotive issue is at stake. The battle against corruption is much more generic in nature while the struggle to get Anna freed from Tihar jail struck an emotional chord which finds easy resonance across the length and breadth of the country. Also the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill will be a function more of laborious detail and painstakingly crafted arguments which need to hold good more on the scales of logic and sound reasoning than be shaped by public adulation and mass support.
There is also a tired look about Team Anna with its energy expanded quite a bit in these last few days on humbling the government in perception sweepstakes. In response, the UPA strategy may now well be to tire out their opponents in the ensuing battle of nerves.
Some analysts are convinced that the credit for Anna Hazare's larger than life figure and the comparison his campaign against corruption often evokes with the Arab Spring, should go more to the mistakes of the UPA government than the planning and execution of its strategy by Team Anna.
Just think if Anna Hazare was not detained, subsequently arrested and packed off to Tihar jail on 16 August. Would there have been such a outpouring of outraged support for him?
People's anger, frustration and impatience on the issue of corruption is now well established. So is the credibility of Anna Hazare in his largely middle class constituency.
But it was the arrest of Anna and the fact that he was taken –of all places —to Tihar jail, where some of India’s most corrupt are cooling their heels, was the proverbial last straw. The ensuing protests were spontaneous and spread across the country. Stung by the sharp reaction of the masses and completely caught off balance, the UPA simply capitulated.
The situation has considerably changed now. Anna's message rung louder and stronger when he was perceived to be in chains battling a corrupt,brutal and oppressive government. That battle is now won.
Now Anna is a free man. The government no longer looks as oppressive. And with a team of doctors monitoring his health every couple of hours and a security detail fit for a head of state guarding, Anna no longer comes across as a vulnerable underdog taking on the might of a all powerful enemy state. The fact that Ramlila Ground –with a capacity of 90,000—is not even a quarter full is also being noticed.
There’s also some debate on how representative this "second war of independence" really is and whether Anna should adopt a more give-and-take approach when negotiations begin afresh on the Jan Lokpal Bill with the government and Parliament.
With no chains to be lost and no imaginary demons to be slain, going forward this reality check may well be the biggest leveler for Team Anna.
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The left-leaning intelligentsia describe the Hazare movement variously as elitist, fascist, naive and undemocratic. Nivedita Menon takes them to task for their demands for 'purity' and absolute incomprehension of and contempt for ’the people’ when actually confronted by them.