Can Anna do a JP?

Can Anna do a JP?

It is not the first time that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has disclosed the government’s involvement in a scam.

What is disconcerting this time is that prime minister Manmohan Singh has been accused of keeping away the CAG report from Parliament on coal bungling, running into Rs 1.45 lakh crore.

The prime minister told Parliament on May 23 this year that the CAG report was only a draft while the fact which has come to light is that the final report was received on May 11, both by the government and the President’s office. It means that there is nothing sacrosanct for the Congress-led coalition, even parliament privileges, much less transparency that one expected from a government headed by Manmohan Singh.

The government is only a forwarding agency as far as reports by the CAG are concerned. He directly reports to Parliament through the government as he did in the case of corruption in coal, a portfolio directly under the prime minister. How he rationalises the delay – he is a master in doing so – will be something which I await. Yet the corruption part is really serious. Certain private parties and individuals are said to have been given benefits. They must have rendered service in kind and cash to the ruling party.

The sad part is that when a movement against corruption was needed the most, Gandhian Anna Hazare as its leader, changes his strategy and thinks about contesting elections in 2014. Although he looked reluctant and expressed doubts in public, he seemed to have been prevailed upon by those who have always focused their eyes on the electoral politics. Some of them may well be members of the team which Hazare has now disbanded.

Yet abandoning a movement which had come to ventilate the resentment of civil society was leaving a job in the middle. True, the government was obtrusive and did not want to give a strong Lokpal. Equally true, the opposition parties were indifferent. This was all the more reason why the movement for a Lokpal needed to be intensified.
The failing health of some members who went on fast was one reason why the movement had to be restructured to give an excuse for dropping the fasts. In fact, fasts are a wrong strategy to begin with. Mahatma Gandhi’s fast was never against anybody. They were always positive in their demand and he was engaged in wresting freedom from the unwilling hands of the British.

With no immediate challenge on corruption, the government has blessed the move of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) not to go in appeal on the rejection of disproportionate assets case against former UP chief minister Mayawati. Her 21 votes in the Lok Sabha are important for the Manmohan Singh government to show a majority in parliament.

Awakening civil society

And it seems obvious that the Congress will stick to office for the rest of the term, roughly 22 months, even if it has to play false as it has done in the case of CAG report on coal. Indeed, this is the best time for Anna to enter the political field. But can a party rise from the ashes of a movement which had swept the intelligentsia off its feet and had kept the media focused for 18 months? In concrete terms, the movement has nothing to show. But the awakening of civil society is itself an achievement of sorts.

Whether Anna can convert the awakening process into voting process is yet to be seen?  One thing which is in his favour is that he is being associated with an alternative to the Congress and the BJP, the two main political parties. People generally want a change and not either of the two at the helm of affairs again.

Gandhian Jayaprakash Narain (JP) was forced into a similar situation but accepted the Jana Sangh, the predecessor of BJP, after the Jan Sangh promised him to cut off relations with the RSS. He was betrayed but in the process the Jana Sangh got credibility of a non-communal setup.

The mantle of JP has fallen on Anna. But JP travelled throughout India to awaken people to the need to have an alternative and defeat the rulers who have mutilated the very system to serve their purpose and sustain the status quo which gives them power and unfettered control.

I am not against Anna taking part in elections. He himself is having second thoughts. Yet it would have been far better if he had held wider consultations with activists like Medha Padkar and Aruna Roy. Such consultations did take place before Anna had begun stir against corruption. He must string together the various movements, however small, which are visibly working at the grassroots.

JP did not from the party till after winning at the polls. Yet he saw to it that his candidates would fight on one symbol. What proved to be his Achilles heal was the wrong candidates he chose. They were not the people to effect changes. They used the system to benefit themselves.

And then JP’s health failed and he could not reach out to the people. Anna should be careful about his health and slowly but relentlessly harness support among those close associates who have the commitment and faith in basic values. He should take time. But he cannot afford to fail for the second time. Politics is not bad. Those who dominate it at this time have given it a bad name.

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