Social activist Anna Hazare, the figurehead of the erstwhile India Against Corruption movement, has resumed his agitation once again. In the run-up to the agitation, he had said that the Modi government has displayed no seriousness in fighting corruption and dealing with the plight of farmers.
Anna Hazare might have become a national sensation in 2011 as the face of the India Against Corruption movement. The movement might have gained traction back then, and might have put the then government in a fix. But the latest round of his crusade to bring about the Jan Lokpal Bill will fall flat on its face.
There are essentially three factors which will bring about the agitation’s downfall.
The first is that Anna was only the figurehead of the agitation in 2011. The agitation might have been his brainchild to begin with, but turning it into a pan-India movement was neither his idea nor the result of his efforts. Bringing the agitation into the limelight was a concerted effort by a group of left-liberal activists with considerable political clout. Their ability to strategize, to mobilize people, to bring it to the attention of the media, and to use social media effectively, were the reasons this movement became mainstream.
The cabal is not with Anna this time. Those ‘five-star activists’ who dressed like farmers by day and roamed the Lutyens cocktail circuit by night, have moved on. Nobody is by Anna’s side this time to tell him when it’s a good time to fast based on the ongoing news cycles. The cabal hijacked Anna’s movement last time with a political objective in mind, and it has achieved its objective. However self-serving the hijack might have been, the movement would have been a damp squib without the cabal. And it looks like round 2 will be without the cabal.
The second factor which will bring about the downfall of Anna’s new agitation, is the Aam Aadmi Party. At the peak of the IAC agitation, almost the entire country was firmly behind the agitators. Did the country get a Lokpal? No! Did every state get a Lokayukta? No! What the country got was the Aam Aadmi Party. And this outfit has been such a disappointment that it has left a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of most Indians.
What started off as an outfit that promised to clean up the country, that promised to bring about the changes the IAC was fighting for, ended up crushing the hopes and aspirations of millions of Indians. Today, it is under investigation for several corruption scandals itself. Not just financial fraud, the outfit seems to have indulged in several unconstitutional practices. Its members stand accused of forging educational degrees, domestic violence and the extraction of sexual favors to facilitate governmental work. These charges have disgusted most people, and angered them for placing their faith on an outfit with the belief that it was the only proponent of change. Since the first round of the IAC movement gave the country no palpable change but only a political party, and one that turned to be such a disgrace, people will be wary of another round of agitations with Anna as the figurehead.
The third factor and the biggest factor is that is the man Anna seems to target this time around- prime minister Modi.
Anna says that the government is not serious in its fight against corruption because it has refused to set up a Lokpal and Lokayuktas across states. Back in 2011, the concept of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas might have been key components in the anti-corruption discourse. Many might have considered them to be the solutions to corruption. With the advent of prime minister Modi, the discourse itself has changed.
In 2011, at the peak of the agitation, Anna Hazare was the face of anti-corruption in India. When Arvind Kejriwal formed the Aam Aadmi Party and took the political plunge, he became the face of anti-corruption in India. But today, that crown unequivocally belongs to the prime minister himself. Narendra Modi is the face of anti-corruption in India.
The prime minister being the face of anti-corruption in India is one the main reasons the BJP has taken wind out of the opposition’s sails almost completely. The scope that existed for the Kejriwals of this world to capture people’s imagination in 2011, is non-existent today. The present political environment is not conducive for an IAC-style movement to take wings. Unlike the UPA regime, not a single scam has emerged under prime minister Modi’s watch. And with initiatives such as demonetization, the government seems serious to tackle corruption at its roots.
And so, without the right people, the bitter aftertaste of last time, and an unconducive environment, the second round of Anna’s agitation is bound to fail. Perhaps the octogenarian should realize he’s fighting a losing battle, and should think about retiring now.
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