Thursday, July 25, 2024

Anna movement losing steam


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Need for giving a fresh dimension

By Harihar Swarup

It is sad indeed that Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement has slackened because of the split in the core group and the integrity of its prominent members—Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan—coming under scanner. The record of anti-corruption crusaders should be beyond suspicion like Cesar’s wife. Unfortunately, it is not so. The setback has come at a time when impact of the anti-corruption movement was percolating down. The rate of bribe at public offices like lower courts, registrar of cooperatives etc has appreciably come down, in some cases by 50 per cent. The tempo of the crusade against graft has to be maintained.

Government, under pressure from Anna, may bring a strong Lokpal bill but the measure will not eradicate corruption at the lower level which affects the common man. The need is to bring the movement at the lower level with peoples’ committees acting as watch dog. Regrettably, the present state of affair is pathetic. Kejriwal has been accused of financial impropriety and high-handedness; Kiran Bedi is struggling to explain her allegedly less-than-honest actions in presenting inflated travel bills; and Prashant Bhushan is under fire for his comments on Kashmir.

The decision to campaign against the Congress in Hisar bye election has drawn accusation that Anna is no longer above politics and might have unwittingly helped someone who is allegedly more unsavoury than the Congress candidate. Team Anna has come to the conclusion that without significant electoral reforms, there is little to choose between one politician and another. More importantly, not a day passes without one member of the team sniping at another. Two key members of team Anna—P V Rajagopal and water man Rajendra Singh—have quit the team alleging that the movement has turned political. Apart from these, former Karnataka Lokayukta, Santosh Hegde, who was chosen by Anna as one of the civil society representatives in the Lokpal Bill Drafting Committee, has voiced his disapproval of the anti-Congress campaign by team Anna in Hisar by-poll.

Significantly, a core committee member, Kumar Vishwas, has asked Anna to dismantle the committee and create a new structure. In a letter to Anna, he said. “I request you to adjourn the present core committee and create a new structure so that we can fulfil the dream of a corruption-free India”. He also suggested that the core committee should be expanded; “transform it into a high core-committee with 121 members”. One wonders if such a massive core committee will be able to deliver goods. There is bound to be differences in such a massive structure and most of the time will be lost in resolving them. The core-committee has to be compact, comprising committed persons whose integrity is unquestionable. They should pool their heads together and chalk out a practical and purposeful programme for eradication of corruption, particularly at the lower level which affects the common man.

Though Anna is observing maun, his official blogger, Raju Parulekar has hinted that core committee may be expanded. Apart from Vishwas, Medha Patkar too demanded overhaul of the core committee. Parulekar, however, did not disclose how and when the revamp will take place. Parulekar also blogged that Hazare was contemplating forming a pan-India, apolitical organisation to achieve his objective of a change in the whole electoral system. The new outfit would aim at not playing the game of election, but to change the rules of the game instead.

“The movement derives its strength from the popular anger against corruption…. irrespective of what happens to the core committee or its member”, a team member said, adding a new version may not have members susceptible to government’s “dirty tricks”. Things have come to such a pass that many erstwhile supporters of the Anna movement are beginning to wonder if the people they were supporting were themselves honest. Although Anna himself is still seen above board, un-corruptible, people round him have dimmed the lustre around the movement. The immediate challenge before Anna is revive and rejuvenate the anti-corruption crusade. The fire ignited by his Ramlila ground fast should not be allowed to die down. (IPA Service)


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