His interviews with both Barkha on NDTV and Karan Thapar on CNN IBN were remarkable. He spoke glibly like a lawyer. He spoke with a resolve that could not have been his own....clearly his party’s stand was what he was projecting. Enough was enough he said. Anna hardly represented the civil society movement. And when asked what the government would do on Aug 16th if Anna went on a strike again, he said “Wait and Watch”. That reply flummoxed even Karan Thapar.....was the answer a threat? Was it a display of a new political resolve to handle the unnecessary crisis that has gripped the country? No one knows the answers, but I have a few theories.
The first one is that the Congress has done its own homework and realized that Anna is not the force that the media made him out to be. Yesterday HT carried a full page story on him “Does the Gandhi Topi fit?” which brought out pieces of information from his past that no Gandhian would support. For eg., in his village Ralegaon Siddhi, Anna would round up liquor vendors and beat them with his army belt if they continued to sell. Since his motives were noble, all this passed off as a display of passion and resolve. But can he do the same nationally? It also hints at a weak character when it describes the way Anna left the army after the war with
. Was he not strong enough to handle the pain and suffering? The story then points out the difference between Satyagraha and “duragraha” a term that Gandhi had coined to describe “a romanticized and extremist point of view without regard to constructive democratic politics”. So it called Anna’s movement duragraha, not satyagraha. Likewise, the Indian Express has been on Anna’s and the Lokpal committee’s case for a long time now. There have been many damaging articles in the papers rubbishing the proposals of the Anna panel. And now even the TOI has started taking a neutral stance. China
The Congress also must have got comfort that all the drama around Ramdev’s eviction has subsided so soon. No one cares about Ramdev now. Media is hardly interested in covering what he’s up to. The fact that he had to break his fast in a few days was a matter of surprise to the nation. After all, the yoga guru was expected to go on for much longer. I was surprised when Kapil Sibal attacked him frontally.....and said that the government had “exposed” him. The fact that he could not fast for even a few days would affect Ramdev’s business as well, he argued.
Somewhere, Anna seems to have made a tactical mistake. By latching onto the expected frenzy that Ramdev would create, Anna has strayed. By never ever complaining about the RSS and BJP, he has shown that his is a political movement. By going to media at every single opportunity, he and his team now look like they are performing for the sake of media. All this has made media wary. CNN IBN has been a critic of the government for long and for them to put the Karan Thapar show was a message being sent. Karan was almost suppliant when asking Kapil questions. He was more than willing to accept even the not-so-convincing answers that Kapil was providing. Like I wrote in yesterday’s post, the media is changing sides.....and if that happens, Anna’s movement is dead. A movement propped up by media would surely die if media pulled out the support.
Probably that’s what prompted Sonia to write a terse reply to Anna’s letter. He complained to her that her party folks were calling him an RSS “mask”. But this is the problem with Anna. That’s why Anna is not Gandhi. The same Anna was saying nothing to his panelists who went to media complaining that the government was made up of “cheats” and “liars”. Sonia’s earlier letter to Anna had been respectful.....now she was terse. She accused him of having leaked his letter to the media. Bang on!
Calling the all-party meeting is a good idea. It will help all parties discuss points and come to unanimous decisions. If nothing, the Congress will at least know how much support the bill has got. What if the bill is defeated in Parliament? The government will have to quit. Is that why the BJP is not offering its viewpoints to the government while it is readily relaying them to media? Even now, they have said that they will “participate” but they won’t give their views until the Congress gives its views. What else does “participate” mean? This kind of political behavior must be condemned. Sitaram Yechury has already spoken about the Left’s views on Anna. I covered that in an earlier post.
So what happens on August 16th? Ideally, good sense will prevail and Anna will show he is not that stubborn. His own party colleague Santosh Hegde has said that he doesn’t prefer the fasting option. But what if he does go on a fast? I for one would urge the government to give him a few days, but make its intentions clear that on the 4th or 5th day, he would be force fed. Media should be kept in the loop and the authorities must act with great sensitivity. The support for Anna has faded. Everyone knows that the bill cannot be passed by August 15th. The bill has to be referred to the Standing committee of Parliament. Public views have to be obtained. Parliamentary debate has to happen. All this takes time. Pranab Mukherjee slammed Anna by saying “only parliament will decide when the bill will be passed”. Can Anna afford to go ahead with his fast? My own bet is that he won’t. Surely he realizes that if he does, all his support will vanish.
The real truth is that this “back channel” BJP strategy is starting to backfire. The BJP has again shown itself to be a weak party that cannot be trusted. That’s not the same as saying that the Congress can be trusted. What it shows is that this corruption movement was not a people’s movement but a political movement. I had written earlier that it should be dealt with politically. Looks like the Congress has understood that message!