With Anna Hazare’s deteriorating health due to chest congestion and excessive damage to his kidneys, not to mention the last protest at Mumbai receiving a tepid response at best, Team Anna stands at the crossroads today.
‘Lokpal’, meaning ombudsman, has been the subject of much contention in India. The Lokpal Bill, designed to reduce graft in the country, has been on hold in the Parliament for the past 40 years. It made the news last year, when patriotic fervour gripped the nation and the ‘Jan-Lokpal Bill movement’ was born. Millions of people took to the streets to demand a graft-free country and a strong, capable Lokpal body to deal with corruption in a nonviolent manner. Anna Hazare, the veteran Gandhian, and a team of highly influential social activists collectively christened Team Anna by the media, led this social movement, proposing the ‘Jan-Lokpal Bill’ as an alternative to the weak bill proposed by the parliament.
Lokpal Bill, the sustaining force of the Jan-Lokpal Bill Movement that gripped the country last year, is now under discussion in Parliament. However no concrete action seems to be in the cards as the Members of Parliament debate upon the merits and demerits of the proposed bill, all the while looking out for their personal interests. In a frank letter of admission to the public in general, Arvind Kejriwal, a prominent member of Team Anna and a long time crusader for a transparent, corruption free India, said that Team Anna is now at a loss to determine the next steps to reignite the movement. He seeks answers from the people, since it is the people of the country who lifted the movement up and saw it through.
As five states (Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, Goa) go to the polls this year, Team Anna needs a strong nonpolitical voice to lend it credibility and strength. In India, a political career has always been viewed as untrustworthy, due to the sheer amount of corruption that is unearthed every year, so Team Anna’s political leanings will have severe repercussions.
From the advent of the movement, Team Anna has portrayed itself as neutral, blaming both UPA for its lethargy regarding the Bill, and the BJP for blocking the Bill. But due to the flak earned by the UPA from Team Anna, the media has reflexively portrayed Team Anna in saffron, possibly because of the absence of minorities among major Team Anna members. I admire Arvind Kejriwal’s strategy to involve the public in the participation of the anti-corruption movement. With no major investigative agencies that can successfully deal with the rampant corruption, Lokpal (ombudsman)is the solution to combat corruption in India.
With this public declaration and demand for guidance, Arvind Kejriwal has appealed to the democratic sense of the public. It is well known that every Indian is a self-proclaimed political critic, with solutions for everything from the nuclear deals to the poll exercises. Kejriwal has appealed to precisely this emotion. Being the most populous democracy, enfranchisement is a highly valued ideal in India. Hence, instead of alienating and disparaging the people from the process of the Lokpal, as done by the UPA and the Parliament, Kejriwal has struck a raw nerve to energize the movement once more.
Now this is what I call smart!