Friday, October 28, 2011

Why blame the government for Team Anna’s mess???

Team Anna is in a mess. Its high profile members – most notably Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan – are in a mess. But the mess is one of their own making. Why blame the government?

Take the case of Kiran Bedi. Her fudging of travel accounts was brought out by the Indian Express. It was this newspaper that front-paged details of the various trips that Kiran Bedi made and overcharged for. It was then the Times of India that actually spoke with some conference organizers and brought out their claim that Kiran Bedi had not informed them about her scheme at all. It was only after all of this came out that people like Digvijay Singh started commenting on her; demanding that she quit. It was she who defended herself like politicians do when they are caught – rather than accepting her mistake. It was she who did not offer to quit – while that’s what she demands from politicians all the time. She was double standards personified – and she has only herself to blame for this.

Take Arvind Kejriwal. Accusations of diverting Rs 80 lacs worth of donations – meant for the India against Corruption movement – to his own NGO were not made by the government, but by former Team Anna member Swami Agnivesh. Now Swami Agnivesh may have an axe to grind – having been dropped from Anna’s team. Whatever the reasons, the muck around Kejriwal was thrown up by Swami Agnivesh, not the government. As far as the Income Tax department’s claim on Kejriwal goes, that’s many years old. What he has been served now is apparently the 5th notice. It’s not something the government mounted after the first fast of Anna in April. It’s also important to clarify that the Income Tax department was the employer of Kejriwal – hence the notice for repayment of dues has come from this department. It’s not what many lay people think – that the government has unleashed the Income Tax department to harass Kejriwal.

Take Prashant Bhushan. Now he’s been panned for all the wrong reasons. His position was compromised by his own habit of commenting on everything under the sun. It’s his Kashmir views that have gone against Anna himself and his supporters. They want him out. What’s the government got to do with this? Did they plant words in his mouth? (My own view is that I don’t agree with his Kashmir remarks – but he has the right to speak his mind nonetheless).

Take the two people who quit his team earlier on. “Waterman” Rajinder Singh and PV Rajagopal quit because they disagreed with Kejriwal’s political game. Who decided to campaign against the Congress (alone) in Hisar? Kejriwal. Who decided to support other corrupt candidates in the process? Kejriwal. That’s what’s upset so many of Team Anna’s supporters. That’s why these two team members quit. Why blame the government for the mess?

Yes, when it comes to investigating Baba Ramdev, one can say that the government was out to get him. They mounted large scale investigations against him after he tried to join Anna’s movement. But look at what the ED found – that there are huge foreign exchange violations that the Baba himself is involved in. There is an island abroad that he owns that he hasn’t reported. There are forex transactions that look like violating the laws of the land. What does all this do to his fight against black money – after he’s found to be involved in the racket himself?

Of course, Digvijay Singh has been attacking Team Anna. But then, he’s a politician and it’s his job to protect his party. At least he’s not hiding behind a smokescreen when he attacks members of Team Anna, the RSS, the BJP and many others. He is doing the same thing that the BJP is doing – playing politics. It’s also alright for the BJP to play games too – after all it’s a political party. It’s alright for the BJP to appear to support Anna from the outside, while grappling with its own contradictions from the inside. It’s alright for Advani to say that we cannot have nuclear power plants without adequate safety. Who can deny that? But that’s the kind of latitude an opposition party gets. There’s nothing wrong with it…..

What is wrong is for people like Kejriwal and Bedi to make the anti-corruption movement so personalized. When Bedi waved the tricolor at Ramlila grounds, she was trying to position herself at the center of the movement. When Bedi mocked politicians with her skit there, she should have been prepared for counter-attacks. When Kejriwal went political in Hisar, he should have expected a political fight-back. When Baba Ramdev attacked the government on black money, he should have expected to be exposed on black money himself. How can it be that Team Anna expects to attack, but expects the political class to sit back and do nothing?

Anna has to come back to the centerstage. The movement was started by him and the people look up to him for leadership. He has to sack Bedi and Kejriwal immediately. My personal view is that Prashant Bhushan must be retained (though I don’t like his style) – he does add value to the team. Anna must also tone down the vindictive rhetoric against politicians. He must shun party politics. He has to understand and appreciate Parliament’s role in law-making. He has to show responsibility in the way he leads the movement – there is no point in spewing venom at the politicians. Politicians also are members of society – they are what they are because of the kind of system we have. It’s impossible for politicians to win elections without large doses of money. That money is not available legally. They have to go illegal. Yes they are greedy too. Just the same way everyone in this country is. Like businessmen who adopt illegal means to get that extra buck. Like almost everyone in the country who twists and violates tax laws to gain that extra bit. The system needs to be cleaned – but Anna must recognize the reasons for the problem and then treat it with appropriate measures.

The real truth is that Anna’s team has let him down. Anna is often compared with Gandhiji. But Anna didn’t learn from Gandhiji how to set up a good team. A team that would finish off the nitty gritties after Gandhiji opened up the big opportunities. Anna cannot write the Lokpal bill. His team should help him do that. But in the same way, his team cannot act like visionaries. That only Anna can do. It is this misunderstanding of roles that has caused the problem. It’s important Anna and his team realize this…..

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