If anyone can claim to be a son of the soil both literally and figuratively, it’s Kisan Baburao “Anna” Hazare. A diminutive man of pre-independence origin who also seems the same in his white Nehru cap, popularized by Nehru and now mass produced under the brand name of AAP, although slightly rechristened in the logo department. The first I saw a pixelated High Definition image of him was in 2011. I do remember hearing his name barely though prior to that, as I am still being treated for being a news junkie (pun intended).
There was a 40 feet Indian flag at the Ramlila Maidan fluttering in the Delhi breeze, along with it swayed the hearts of millions of Indians, to some, in nostalgia of growing up on hearing first-hand accounts of the truth and honesty during the Independence era from those in the aura of living in the same time as Gandhi, and to those like me born the post Indira era, it was my first tryst with taking part in a “Indian Independence” like movement, although from the comfort of my home in a climate controlled environment.
Nevertheless for a moment all of us billion plus Indians felt like we were stakeholders in this behemoth concept called India, and a nation free of graft where meritocracy reigned, did feel like it was in sight, only to be offset by a subsequently diagnosed case of “Myopia”.
Since then things have changed drastically. A rag-tag Lokpal bill was passed at that time as a draft initially by a nervous Congress government who had bigger fish to fry including a ton of corruption, judicial activism, media overreach and a drastically falling public perception that was going down rapidly than the Stock exchange of that time. Slowly and subsequently the movement and its purported objective of making a “Corruption Mukt Bharat” has faded from the public memory, the temporal lobes of Indians have since then seen the rise of a Modi wave in 2014 (there are still who debate whether it is a wave or a tsunami), and very recently rose Arvind Kejriwal a phoenix like figure from the ashes of the “India against corruption” movement and spanned his wings across Delhi to a resounding victory, that can be said as one for the record books.
On a lighter note, I imagine a certain the grand old Mr.Soothsayer of a much grander and older party in India is the only one who must be having occasional nightmares about Mr. Anna’s movement in 2011 and its probable links to RSS, with the whole thing being a conspiracy conceived to prevent their leader in succession from being given his due.
Since then Mr. Anna has gone from supporting the leader of “Maa Maati Manoos” fame in West Bengal which did not go all that well, to questioning about the acche din of Modi as recently as before the Delhi elections. There have been murmurs also mostly fanned by the anti-Modi brigade that Anna would start another Jan Andolan or people’s movement against Modi’s policies including the land acquisition bill.
And at this juncture I cannot but invoke the architect of Indian constitution, our revered Mr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar popularly known as Babasaheb who hails from the same great state of Maharashtra, the Land of Shivaji! To quote Mr. BR Ambedkar “It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and Satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.”
At this point we should ask ourselves as to “How much of corruption did we see a reduction in, since the Lokpal and Anna movement?” Not to make any claims to the contrary but to emphasize that before we discuss about anything else, we need to stress about our understanding of what we achieved, how we are measuring it and has there been a substantial change since this Lokpal reform”. What if instead of creating a Lokpal (ombudsman) we have just added one more arm to the multi-pronged monster of corruption called the “Indian bureaucracy”.
What if a Lokpal has been found to be involved in a case of graft? Shall we add one more arm to this giant? In the spur of the movement we rejoiced at the passing and said to ourselves “I am Anna”, but I guess like everything that is worth craving for, pubic memory is also short in life. What about the mainstream media who fuelled this flame called the “Anna movement”, burning the midnight oil and who still occasionally broadcast sound bites from Anna on every new decision of national importance and an opinion on every prominent leader who sprung up in the public life.
The argument here is not to downplay the significance of Anna in any way. He has led an exemplary life worthy of being emulated from having a holistic approach to the Gandhian way of life, to being a simple man who never accorded any gain to himself, and most of all serving our mother India on the borders. But alas, nothing is either a shade black or white, and Anna is no Gandhi. Gandhi besides having these means of Satyagraha and other public movements at his disposal, was backed by a acumen of a shrewd lawyer who best knew not only how to fan them but to streamline them to maximum efficacy as per the prevalent conditions at that time to achieve the desired objective.
Unfortunately Anna’s movement at best in the present scenario can be described as a faded tune that is reverberated every now and then, plucked by the media only to be used as a Launchpad amongst the various political opponents, mostly one against another. Even the Ramlila Maidan which has seen many distinguished events since then must have greyed out in its memory of his movement.
As for corruption and Jan Lokpal, some schemes like the direct cash transfer initiated by the Modi government are worth being discussed about, keeping aside political affiliations as plugging the loopholes in the system to promote transparency is always more effective than promoting more and more oversight. And even to the most academically disadvantaged sections of the Indian society, looking at their bank account and telling whether they have received the said amount is easier than circling around a Lokpal’s office or any other oversight department (which can also be monitored at the macro level).
So who would the political punters bet on next That Anna would endorse? would it be the politically shrewd Maratha strongman or the electorally dexterous leader from the Hindi heartland who seems to be in all trouble since his spat with Modi, or should I say the tech savvy one from the South who is busy digitizing the whole government with iPads and PowerPoint presentations. Well, my guess is as good as yours.
By: SV – @theindianmuse