Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Anna- the second JP?

I was a bit concerned to read yesterday that Anna Hazare announced his intention to include tribals, dalits, minorities and youths in his team to strengthen the campaign against corruption. 

I have the highest respect for Anna and believe beyond doubt that he is not in the least motivated by personal gain. Nevertheless, I am deeply concerned at the direction in which Anna's movement is heading. While I rejoiced at the politicians being finally forced to bow to the will of the people, I was never in favour of holding a legitimate, democratically elected Government to ransom- a point which I made in an earlier article on this very blog. If that wasn't alarming enough, team Anna's anti-Congress campaign in the Haryana bypolls sent the alarm bells ringing in my mind.

Anna Hazare

My apprehension is that Anna Hazare's campaign, which started off as a crusade against corruption, is beginning to assume political overtones. Anna's intentions are beyond question, but he also gives the impression of a man who has little understanding of politics. Knowingly or unknowingly, he has become a live banner for all opposition parties to rally around in their bid to unseat the Congress.

Many might argue that a non-Congress government at the centre would do a world of good for India. I for one am a lot less sanguine. The more I see of Anna's movement, the more I see shades of the JP Movement. 

Jayprakash Narayan

For the uninitiated: Jayprakash Narayan was the leader who spearheaded the student movement in Bihar in 1974, when the combination of recession, high unemployment and runaway inflation saw the rise of anti-congress movements in Gujarat and Bihar. It was his irresponsible appeal to the armed forces to disobey unconstitutional and immoral orders, which brought things to a head for the increasingly embattled Indira Gandhi, who persuaded then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare a state of internal emergency- a period unequalled in notoriety by any other in the history of Independent India.

The elections in 1977 saw opponents of pretty much ever shade of political orientation rally around JP. The unprincipled coalition they formed- the Janata Government- proved a farce that was doomed even before it started. It says something of the mess they created, that the Congress was back in power within three years after the Janata Government took power- when the excesses of the emergency were still fresh in collective memory.

Janata Party

It remains to be seen, which way Anna Hazare's movement goes from here. For sure, the horrors of the emergency will never ever happen again in this age or RTI, social networking and youtube. There's little doubt that any new movement that Anna launches might have the urban middle rallying around him. That little man without a political party, without an army, without any weapons, has forced the Government to listen. Long may the spirit of Anna live.

However, Anna is treading on a path on which others before have tread. He will need to be cautious, lest he becomes the second J.P. Narayan.

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