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Hazare's political ambitions raise questions

Corruption crusader says political approach will be more effective

Hazare's political ambitions raise questions
Bosco de Souza Eremita, Panaji

August 8, 2012

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On Monday, Anna Hazare abruptly announced that he was disbanding the core team that helped him conduct an unprecedented anti-corruption movement in India for almost 16 months. The decision came several days after the veteran crusader  began his fifth fast at Jantar Mantar, to protest against corruption within the government. While later calling off this hunger strike, Hazare made two significant claims – that the fast was a waste of time, and the need for the moment was to provide a political alternative. For once, there seemed to be some clarity in Hazare’s mind. What is not so clear, however, is the reason for him to wind up a campaign that was making international headlines just a year ago. Las April, millions of Indians began to rally behind Hazare, seeing him as a Messiah who would deliver them from the poverty and misery that continue to dog them, six decades after their country won freedom from colonial rule. To lose such massive support within a year has shocked even Hazare. Only a few thousand people came to support his latest hunger strike. Even the media was critical. So he called off the campaign to save face. Perhaps what made Hazare take this extreme step was that he had run out of patience with the highhandedness of the so-called experts within his group. People such as Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bushan and others had taken total control of the campaign, reducing Hazare to a mere figurehead. But is that all? Or is Hazare playing a different game? The first vehement reaction against Team Anna’s plan to go political came from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national volunteers’ corps), the umbrella organization for right-wing Hindu groups, and its political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian National Party). While the political alternative fulfills the Team members’ not-so-hidden ambition, both the RSS and BJP were allegedly hoping to ride on the Hazare movement to win the general election in 2014. No wonder an RSS spokesperson was heard making an agitated statement on television that the Hazare team’s political platform is “not acceptable.” Those in RSS circles fear Hazare’s political outfit would not only eat into the BJP vote bank but torpedo the party’s plan to use the Hazare campaign to finish off the Congress Party that heads the federal coalition government by the next election. The BJP and RSS need Hazare because the BJP has lost its credibility over its own internecine squabbles and corruption. Many people had seen an RSS hand in Hazare's movement,  from the time he launched his hunger strike in New Delhi last April. The RSS volunteers who were present at all his campaigns incognito aggressively condemned Hazare’s announcement of the political alternative. The RSS apparently had exerted tremendous pressure on Hazare, even going to the extent of cautioning him on his approach to the campaign. That was the reason Hazare walked out of Jantar Mantar in mysterious silence on Monday, in the media's glare, without explaining his decision to call off the fast. Now that the Hazare bubble has burst, members of Team Anna will have to work without the suffix "Anna." This may not have much impact on the electorate. As long as the team remained in the Hazare fold, they had the strength. Without Hazare, the movement has lost its steam and credibility. Even the BJP and RSS now find themselves back to square one. Needless to say, they too have to put the pieces together before the next election. To make matters worse, L K Advani, a top RSS-BJP leader and former deputy prime minister, has blogged that the next Indian prime minister would not be from his own party or the Congress. His prognosis has drawn ridicule from BJP allies. Hazare has announced that he would now join yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who has started an indefinite fast against black money in Pune, western India. Only time will tell if Hazare is going to Pune at the RSS diktat. It appears that Hazare who led the anti-graft movement is now being guided by others. The ultimate losers are the Indian poor, who continue to suffer from corruption that has eaten into the core of the nation. Bosco de Souza Eremita is a Panaji-based analyst and former editor of the Gomantak Times
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