Friday, October 14, 2011

If the RSS is behind Anna, his movement is nearly dead….

Does it matter whether the RSS was behind Anna’s movement? Of course it does. Because the entire movement – which had been seen as apolitical till now – would then be called a political movement and the response of the people would be totally different. How many people would continue to support Anna if supporting Anna was seen as supporting the RSS/BJP? There have been many political movements against corruption and the public has always viewed them with suspicion. Anna’s movement would become just another one of those movements.
It’s usual for opposition parties to accuse the ruling party of the day with corruption charges; but that’s hardly a big deal in politics. Voters believe all parties are corrupt and so they vote according to their preferences on other matters. I have written earlier that the core difference between the Congress and the BJP is not on economic matters; or corruption; or foreign affairs; or any such things; but on fundamental matters of religious tolerance. People who believe in a stronger advocacy of Hindutva philosophy may be persuaded to vote for the BJP; while those who believe more in secularism and India’s pluralism may vote for the Congress. Corruption has usually been only a momentary issue in Indian politics. Long term political success has hardly depended on corruption. Yes a Bofors has knocked out a government once, but the same government has come back to power soon thereafter. In fact, voters’ perception of who is corrupt keeps changing with time. Take Tamil Nadu as an example. Every five years, the opposition party of the day (AIADMK till recently) convinces the people that the ruling party (DMK till recently) of the day is the more corrupt; the less deserving one to rule! In the same way, the BJP keeps accusing the Congress of corruption and the Congress, the BJP of the same. Political parties accusing each other of corruption is par for the course and people discount such allegations as a routine attempt to capture some moral highground. Unfortunately for the political parties, people refuse to give any political party that moral highground.
If Anna’s movement was indeed a politically supported one, especially an RSS/BJP supported one, it would raise many doubts about the movement’s success. Did the movement itself generate the support it appeared to do or was it the handiwork of the RSS? For eg, the thousands (not lacs) of people one saw at Jantar Mantar, the Tihar Jail and later at Ramlila grounds would suddenly become unimpressive if this was a political party’s rally. Everyone knows that political parties can get any number of people for their rallies. One would also start doubting whether these people came in on their own volition, or were “brought in” under lure of free food and possibly some money as well. Basically, all the accusations that are made against political rallies would become applicable to Anna’s grand show as well.
If Anna’s movement was indeed supported by the RSS (BJP), then it would be a big sham imposed on the nation. Because the BJP surely cannot be part of an anti-corruption movement. In every scam that has come to light recently, there is a BJP connection. Take the 2G scam. If giving away free spectrum was wrong policy (it wasn’t according to me), then the BJP did the same till 2004 (using the 2001 rates). In fact as written by Digvijay Singh in his blog, even the 2001 figure of Rs 1650 crores for One Time Entry Fees (license fees) was chosen arbitrarily without an auction. Further, it was the BJP that first started the “tweak the rules” business by changing the annual license fees from “fixed” to “revenue sharing” during Pramod Mahajan’s tenure. Some people have argued that had the government stuck to the fixed license fees, the exchequer would have made far more in license fees (Again, I don’t buy this argument because the objective of successive telecom policies has been to spread telecom across the country; not make money from the spectrum). If we talk of the CWG scam, then there is a large part of the scam that which the BJP is responsible for – projects that MCD was responsible for – MCD is BJP controlled – a lot more of the muck will come out in the months and years ahead as the probe progresses. If one talks of corruption in the states, the BJP beats the Congress hands down – be it in Karnataka or Uttarakhand and maybe if a Lok Ayukta were there, in Gujarat as well. So when political parties spar over corruption issues, it hardly makes news; or impact on the minds of the voters.
But when an apolitical Team Anna made the high pitch against politicians, the people responded because they were fed up with corruption in all political parties. The fact is that the outpouring was a protest of the people against all political parties. That is why I have always maintained that the BJP would be unable to get any big benefit from Anna’s movement. Advani knows this. That is why he has gone on his rath yatra – to pick up at least some of the benefits of Anna’s movement for his party.
If Anna is seen as part of the RSS/BJP team, then the movement will soon be dead. People will look at him as just another politician. In fact, there is already doubt that Anna is pro-BJP and anti-Congress. The call to vote against Congress alone in Hisar is proof of that. The fact that Anna rarely (if ever) speaks against the BJP is another known fact. Anna supporters point out that it was a Team Anna member – Justice Santosh Hegde – who exposed the BJP-led corruption in Karnataka; hence how can Anna be called pro-BJP. But now the truth has come out. Justice Santosh Hegde has a mind of his own. He surely is apolitical. But Anna’s team often differes from him. For eg, he was not in favor of campaigning against the Congress alone. Likewise, he was never in favor of Anna’s fast-unto-death. Justice Hegde’s exposing the BJP scam in Karnataka is not evidence of Team Anna’s political neutrality, but of his own. Anna’s supporters also talk of Anna having fought against the Shiv Sena in the past. But in politics, past enemies can become today’s friends. That means nothing. Then again, how can one forget Anna’s praise for Modi – and willingness to condone Modi’s refusal to appoint a Lok Ayukta for seven long years? How can one forget Kiran Bedi’s loud claim that it was Advani who called her “beti” and assured her the BJP will support the Parliamentary debate?
Anna’s movement has always looked like a BJP supported movement; if it now emerges that it indeed was one, the movement will morph from being an apolitical revolution to being just another political selfish dogfight. Present supporters of the movement will get divided on usual political lines. If this was intended to be a way to split the Congress vote towards BJP, it will fail. In the process, the country would have lost yet another chance of having a strong Lokpal.
The real truth is that Anna needs to clear the air now. While the silly charge of the Congress against Anna of his personal corruption was just that; this time around, the charge of being an RSS backed campaigner looks like sticking. If one wants to be generous to Anna, one can possibly say that maybe he himself is apolitical but his team has its own agenda. But Anna needs to answer why he needed to take the support of the RSS? Why couldn’t he have managed the movement on his own? Was he complicit in the decision to take the support of the RSS or was he tricked into it by his team members? Why was he not honest with the nation on this? These are the questions that he needs to answer now…..

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