Image for representational use only. Image Courtesy : The Indian Express
It all unfolded like it always has. First, Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan arrived. Then, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. And Anna Hazare concluded his fast. Last year in Delhi was no different. How exactly his demands were met remained a mystery. Some of the farm leaders even chanted anti-Anna slogans last time.
Anna’s credibility has taken a hit over the past few years. His fasts in NDA-era are perceived as match fixing. If Anna is close to Fadnavis, why does he bother with his fast? He can just have a discussion with the Chief Minister beforehand. Is it now a question of ego for Anna? Or is he in cahoots with BJP leaders? Anna has never answered these questions. His ardent supporters, instead, question the critics’ audacity of asking uncomfortable questions to a saintly Gandhian.
However, asking questions is our birth right. Whether it is Modi or Anna, we shouldn’t spare anybody.
If we merely look at Anna’s demands in the latest fast, one wonders if the fast was a farce.
Anna’s first demand was the enforcement of Lokpal, the law for which was passed in 2013 by the Manmohan Singh government. When Anna first asked for it in 2011, BJP had extended its support. Modi promised to enforce it while campaigning for the 2014 general elections. But since he reneged on his promise, Prashant Bhushan filed a case in Supreme Court, where the judges asked a roadmap from the government, and its first meeting is scheduled on February 13.
While promising Anna on this, Fadnavis cited the upcoming meeting, which is actually happening due to the Supreme Court orders. Did Anna not know of this? Why didn’t he wait for February 13 before going on his fast?
I have known Anna since 1990. He is not a fool. Behind the so called simple man that we see is an astute brain. He has his own politics, which have come to the fore once again ahead of 2019 elections. He uses various forces and also allows them to use him.
Anna’s second demand was the implementation of the new Lokayukta act. Like RTI, Maharashtra should prepare a model Lokayukta act is what Anna insists. But Vishwambhar Chaudhary, Anna’s old supporter, says it is not needed since it is already included in the Lokpal. The committee that zeroed down on it had Anna, Prashant Bhushan and Justice Hegde and others. Only because the chief ministers insisted, states got the power to improve on the draft.
BJP had supported the Lokayukta in 2011 as well. What was Fadnavis doing for four years? Why did he and Anna remember it in 2019? Fadnavis agreed to appoint a 10-member committee for the draft. Five of those would be nominated by Anna. But it comes across as only optics, because what can the committee do before the general elections? The model code of conduct would be in place in few days. And immediately after the general elections, Maharashtra will have the assembly elections. Did Fadnavis fool Anna, or Anna fooled Fadnavis or did the two of them fool us?
Also Read: Was Anna's Fast a Case of Match Fixing?
Anna’s other demands too weren’t new, including Swaminathan Commission, Minimum Support Price and so on. Since Modi came to power, several farm organisations carried out protest marches across the country. Anna couldn’t be seen in any of them. Farmers are wondering if Modi would do anything for the farmers three months before the elections, when he didn’t do much for five years. The same question seems to have escaped Anna.
Anna’s Ambivalence to Modi Government
Anna’s approach towards the Modi government is ambivalent. He doesn’t seem as stern as he was when dealing with Manmohan Singh. He says Modi didn’t respond to 42 of his letters, yet he kept quiet. His agitation against UPA-2 began in 2011. Or two years after Manmohan Singh was re-elected. Why did it take Anna four years to hold Modi to account? Muslims have been lynched, institutions diluted, dalit-adivasis victimised, farmers agitated, people lost lives during demonetisation but Anna remained silent. Today, he is saying BJP used him in 2011, which is true. As an opposition party, BJP used Anna well, and ignored him after coming to power. But Anna didn’t seem to mind it until recently. On the contrary, he was manipulated by Chief Minister Fadnavis.
Since 1980, Anna carried out 19 fasts. The ones before 2014 were genuine and honest. He had taken on BJP-Shivsena’s corrupt ministers in 1999, and on Congress-Nationalist Congress Party in 2006. He went on fast for RTI when the Congress was in power. He had cordial relations with Vilasrao Deshmukh, who had mediated the conclusion of his fast in Delhi after Congress leaders messed up. Several Congress supporters tried to tarnish Anna’s image, but the accusations didn’t stick. Because Anna’s credibility was intact. He had become the voice of people. His agitations were the need of the hour. However, now, he has lost touch with the ground reality.
As a result, his old critics are voyeuristically accusing him of being the agent of Sangh parivar. I still don’t believe that. There is no proof of it. People across the board have participated in Anna’s agitations right from the beginning. He is not tied to any particular ideology. In fact, he is very well confused on this front.His most famous agitation of 2011 was like the Kumbh Mela. RSS used it because it devised a strategy. So did Arvind Kejriwal.While Congress didn’t handle it with maturity.
This time around, Anna didn’t have a single mature leader with him. The ones with him were yes men, unlike Baba Adhav, GP Pradhan, Avinash Dharmadhikar, and later Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. But Anna doesn’t get along with colleagues who are as astute as him. He needs to control everything. And when you want control of everything, you end up with yes men.
Anna’s tragedy is hard to come to terms with. This time media and people deserted him. Media too covered his fast only when Fadnavis visited. His news value is not what it used to be. The one who galvanised the public anger in 2011 is now a butt of all jokes. This is the right time for Anna to retire peacefully, and avoid being the puppet of another politician.