Why Anna and govt will work secretly towards a settlement
One has only to recount statements from both sides to appreciate that it’s more than an ideological divide which separates the two. Can a deal be struck?
On the face of it, both the government and team Anna seem to be engaged in an unrelenting, often dangerous and sometimes even fatal game of "who-will-call-whose-bluff-first".
The manner in which both team Anna and the ministerial delegation on the Jan Lokpal bill joint drafting committee keep upping the ante, the endgame looks inevitably tragic. Whether in satire or serious repartee not much has been left unsaid between the two sides in the last couple of weeks.
One has only to recount a few of last week’s statements from both sides to appreciate that it’s more than an ideological divide which separates the two.
These are some statements from team Anna in the last 10 days.
“The government has gone back on its word. It’s a government of cheats, liars and frauds.”
“It’s no longer a Lokpal bill. It’s more a Jokepal.”
“If a tough Lokpal bill is made, more then half of the cabinet will be in jail.”
If anything the government-Congress combine has been even more virulent.
“They (Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev) are a front of the RSS-BJP combine.”
“We will not suffer the tyranny of the unelected and the unelectable.”
“It cannot always be either their way or Highway”.
“Amongst the many methods practiced the world over for drafting a law, fasting has never been one.”
Matters came to a head in a debate televised live late Thursday evening on Headlines Today when the father-son duo of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan were asked to come clean on the issue of them accepting a plot of land and a flat from the UP chief minister Mayawati. The issue was raised by Congress MP, Keshav Rao, and well-known columnist and senior journalist, Tavleen Singh.
The Indian Express carries a little gossip nugget today suggesting that another member of team Anna, Swami Agnivesh, wanted to contest elections a few years back and tried his best to secure a Congress party ticket.
It’s clear that just like in the case of Baba Ramdev — once the talks failed — stories started to appear about his business empire and the background of his key associates, there will now be an attempt to discredit team Anna also. While there is the onus on the press to dig into public figures who call themselves people's representatives there is too much is at stake for both sides to go for each other’s jugular before making more efforts at finding a mutually acceptable meeting ground. The reason is simple. Like in any contest, both team Anna and the government wants to win this battle of perception. But even more importantly they do not wish to lose. Both are suspicious of each other and unsure of each other’s strengths. Both sides are also unsure of their own strengths.
The government is smug following the retreat Baba Ramdev has been forced to take. But they don’t know if Anna and his followers can be treated the same way if push comes to shove. What the government can’t afford is another popular agitation spearheaded by Anna Hazare in the prevailing mood in the country where the threshold against corruption is at an all time low. Similarly, team Anna also realises its limitations. It also does not want come out looking obstinate and unreasonable. And certainly they have to guard against meeting the same fate as Baba Ramdev.
So for the next few days – for all their blow hot and blow cold pronouncements which are as much for the consumption of the aam janta as for not displaying their hand in this game of poker — both sides may well be warring in public but behind the glare of cameras and microphones there will be a serious effort to hammer out a compromise in the run up to their next meeting on Monday, June 20.
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The Congress, caught up in its macho mood, is trying to deal with Anna Hazare the same way it did with Baba Ramdev. This move could backfire.