Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Anna changes course…..makes amends for team’s lapse

Anna has done the right thing by saying that he will not campaign against the Congress (alone) in UP or elsewhere. He will ask people to vote for the cleanest candidate in each constituency. This is a clear sign of his unhappiness with his colleagues Ms Bedi and Mr. Kejriwal – both of whom were reportedly responsible for this decision to campaign against the Congress in Hisar. The movement had gone astray in the last few months and I am happy that Anna is making amends in the way the movement is being run. I have argued in the past that by making allowing the movement to become a political one, Anna was dividing society into political groupings. I am glad that Anna thinks on the same line.

I hope Anna can take the same approach on the crucial subject of what the exact nature of the Lokpal Bill should be. I have a feeling that while the government will introduce (and hopefully pass) a Lokpal Bill in the winter session, the bill may not satisfy Team Anna entirely. In all likelihood, it will be some sort of an amalgam of the JLP and the NCPRI versions. Actually, after the first hunger strike of Anna’s, this has been the main point of difference between intellectuals of all types (corporate heads, journalists, other activists) and Team Anna. This is the only point that has irked many (like me). How can anyone (including Anna) demand that only his/her draft of the bill be accepted. This is a ridiculous concept and has given the Anna movement unnecessary negative publicity. Again, it appears to me, that this inflexible attitude was more the contribution of unreasonable core team members of Team Anna – than of Anna himself. It’s time that Anna orders his team to take a more calibrated and practical approach to the content of the eventual Lokpal Bill.

Quite obviously, Anna is upset with Kejriwal and Bedi. Why else would he so strongly order that there will be no campaigning against the Congress just days after the two met him and announced that they will continue to campaign against the party in UP. Were the two misleading the people of the country? Since Anna wasn’t speaking, he was unavailable (or unwilling) to talk to the media. Did these two hawks intentionally mislead the media then?

Even in August, when Anna’s fast had gone on for 12 days, the resolution only came when Anna directly dealt with Vilasrao Deshmukh. Prior to this happening, there was a stonewalling of all attempts of the government by the duo of Kejriwal and Bedi (and at that time Prashant Bhushan as well). They were the ones dictating terms to the Parliament upsetting many like me who still believe in the sanctity of this body. If I was forced to choose between Parliament and Anna, I would choose Parliament any day. My criticism of the Anna movement is a direct consequence of the attitude of the Team Anna, not the issues raised by it.

Team Anna has also intentionally tried to abuse media. They have often pretended that the public support was for a specific JLP – for every clause that the JLP contains – rather than for the larger movement against corruption. The public at large knows nothing of the specifics being debated. Even if they read the subject up, they are in no position to understand the nuances and the implications of these nuances. The support Anna got was to fight corruption – just like the support that Gandhiji got to fight the British. But while Gandhiji was smart enough to let Nehru, Patel and others draft the terms of the settlement with the British – including the Partition of India – Anna has allowed his team to run amock. It’s his team that started defining the movement. It’s his team that overtook even Anna. It’s his team that started representing the face of the movement. Anna has held a very low profile since his fast ended. But his team comes every day on media. We now know that what they speak in these media interactions is not the views that Anna holds – but their own views. Anna must put an end to this abuse of media.

Over the last few months – and thanks largely to the ineptitude of his team – Anna has got a lot of feedback to tone down the rhetoric. Anna today looks like a pragmatist, even as he sticks to his core style of threatening another fast-unto-death. My suggestion to him would be to continue with a softer stance – it helps build a friendly atmosphere. He’s achieved 99% of his goal. There is no way any government can possibly go back on the Lokpal Bill now. It’s no longer like the last 40 years when the bill was promised but never delivered. The delivery is certain now. There is no need to remain cynical now. The PM himself has assured him that a strong Lokpal Bill will emerge in this winter session. At this time, it’s important to assume a friendly tone – with the option of becoming tough always available.

Anna must speak directly to his supporters. He must explain why the specific terms of the Lokpal Bill must be left to the experts. He must prepare the grounds for an amicable settlement. There will surely be terms that he may not agree with – but then this country works in that manner only. You get some; you give up some. There are laws introduced all the time and they are then modified over a period of time. Anna has to prepare his supporters for a larger battle – spread over many years – and not one that has to be ended in one decisive stroke.

The real truth is that Anna needs a change of team. Kejriwal and Bedi have totally failed him. He may not want to sack them now for fear of creating a feeling of disruption in the movement. But he has to order them to get off media. To go into the shadows. He must bring forward more pragmatic and flexible leaders. That’s the only way his support base will grow…….

No comments:

Post a Comment