Considering that Anna Hazare is
dissatisfied with the Lokpal bill presented to parliament, it is
obvious that a quick resolution of the confrontation between him
and the government is not feasible. In fact, the scene can take a
turn for the worse if, for one, Anna's fast has an adverse effect
on his health, as his doctors have warned. And, for another, if
the proposed protest outside Sonia Gandhi's and Rahul Gandhi's
houses leads to violence.
The main difference between the earlier stages of Anna's campaign
and the latest one is that while his focus was mainly on his fasts
earlier, he is now presenting a direct challenge to the Congress.
This switch to politics, which will be intensified if Anna tours
the five states going to the polls to campaign against the
Congress, underlines a realisation that self-flagellation or
self-purification a la Gandhi is no longer as effective as before.
True Anna's movement can be claimed to have been always political.
Besides, it was also anti-Congress. Any anti-government agitation
that singles out the first party for constant criticism cannot be
anything other than political and anti-Congress. But it is
possible that this emphasis on the Congress has given the latter
an opportunity to engineer a line-up along a familiar political
As is obvious, the Congress now has on its side, apart from its
allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), parties from the
Hindu belt like Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Mulayam
Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, Ramvilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti
Party (LJP) and also, possibly, Sharad Yadav's Janata Dal-United (JD-U),
which is an ally of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). There is also
a possibility that Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will side
with the Congress at a critical moment.
What can be seen in this combination is the familiar
secular-communal divide, except for the JD-U. But, like the
latter, the Shiv Sena, too, is currently closer to the Congress on
the anti-Anna platform than to the NDA. That leaves out the BJP.
But, before considering its position, it is worth noting that the
political turn which Anna has given to his movement has
highlighted the old battle lines between (in addition to the
secular-communal schism) the rural backward castes and Dalits of
the cow belt on one side and the middle class-dominated urban
support base of Team Anna on the other.
Not surprisingly, to strengthen its own side of the divide, the
Congress has played the caste, gender and religion cards by
ensuring reservations for Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes
(OBCs), women and minorities in the eight-member Lokpal bench and
in the so-called search committee which will help in the Lokpal's
The BJP has, predictably, opposed the inclusion of minorities in
the panel and the committee, calling it unconstitutional. It may
be right. But the Congress will not be too concerned about the
hurdles put by it for, first, the BJP's stance will again
reinforce its Hindu communal image and, second, if the judiciary
strikes down the provision, the resultant delay in the enactment
of the bill will not displease the Congress.
After all, the party has never been in a tearing hurry to see the
bill through. The inordinate delay in its enactment - the measure
has been hanging fire since 1968 - is evidence enough of its lack
of interest. Nor is it the only laggard. It is no secret that the
entire political class is wary of the possibility of an
all-powerful ombudsman sitting in judgment over their heads.
Hence their reluctance to relinquish control over the Central
Bureau of Investigation (CBI), for they know that once the police
and the bureaucracy are imbued with genuine professionalism where
they can act without fear or favour, the cosy partnership between
politicians, officials and even criminals will come to an end. The
pressure from the Anna group may have forced the government to
ease its earlier iron grip on the CBI - now the Lokpal will have
the power of "superintendence" over the CBI - but the repeated
pleas by the backward caste politicians and also the Communist
Party of India (CPI) not to pass the bill in a hurry are not
motivated by a need for closer examination alone.
There is little doubt that Anna has pushed the government a long
distance towards the framing of a reasonably powerful Lokpal. But,
by sticking to its old "my way or the highway" stance, Anna is
damaging his own cause. Besides, while his own decency - except
for a few quirky attitudes like tying the "accused people to trees
to deliver summary justice", as Amartya Sen said - is
unquestionable, the pomposity of some of his colleagues can be
off-putting. If they retain their influence, the movement can
suffer a setback because they lack the sophistication to guide it
through the present phase when a lot has been achieved.
Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org