Thursday, November 10, 2011

Now Nitish slams Anna….

Anna’s movement is in serious trouble. Dogged as it is by serious charges against its recalcitrant and arrogant team members, the movement has now started getting panned by most political parties – including some considered friendly till now. Yesterday, it was Nitish Kumar – the highly successful and popular CM of Bihar – who blasted Team Anna for the supercilious attitude that it has adopted againt his state’s newly enacted Lok Ayukta Act – Kejriwal called it unacceptable as if he were the Lord and Master of India. Nitish singled out Kejriwal – again making obvious the liability that he has become. The attack by Nitish changes things very dramatically for Anna….

No one can possibly doubt Nitish’s credibility of being a good CM. In several media polls, he has been rated amongst India’s best CMs. The impact of the growth that Bihar is witnessing under Nitish’s leadership is being felt all over the country – with agricultural farmlands in Punjab and Haryana, industrial belts in Maharashtra and Gujarat and construction sites all over India being affected by a shortage of laborers coming from Bihar. These laborers today prefer to stay back in their home state where jobs opportunities are starting to emerge. After all, who would want to leave the comforts of home, if it wasn’t for some dire necessity? Nitish has been elected twice and given his track record, is considered good even for the next election a few years away.

It’s one thing when the Congress criticizes Anna. After all, it is the ruling party and has been under incessant attacks from Team Anna. The scams that have surfaced in the last 18 months (though vastly exaggerated in terms of scale) have made the party vulnerable. Poor handling of the anti-corruption movement around Independence Day leading to Anna’s second fast has made the Congress even more weak-kneed in handling this challenge.

But none of these things bother Nitish. Nitish is the poster boy of politics. Of course, there have been scams in Bihar during Nitish’s tenure (including the Rs 11000 crore “Treasury scam”) – but none of those have ever pressurized him. The work that he is doing otherwise is so good for his people that they are more than willing to ignore the charges of corruption. The impoverished people of Bihar are more interested in economic growth than in an anti-corruption struggle. They have suffered enough under Laloo and others. While the rest of the country has steamed ahead, Biharis have remained steeped in economic poverty. For them, Nitish is like God Himself descending on Mother Earth. How could they care about Anna – especially if Anna’s attempts are to sully Nitish’s name?

It’s the same story in Gujarat. Narendra Modi has managed to sustain the great economic growth the state has seen for the past thirty years (under both Congress and BJP rules). Gujarat is a state focused on economic growth. Its people are doing extremely well economically and in most other spheres (though the state government’s lackadaisical attitude towards tribals and the downtrodden has tarnished the image of the state in the Human Development Index report). There is a weak Lok Ayukta Act in operation in Gujarat. In spite of that, the Act is clear that the Lok Ayukta must be chosen by a combination of the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Leader of the Opposition. There is no role intended for the CM in the selection of the Lok Ayukta. This particular provision was debated heatedly in the assembly when the Act was passed during Congress rule. And yet, Modi wants to have his hand in the choice of the Lok Ayukta. No wonder then that there is no Lok Ayukta in the state for the last 7 years and more. No wonder also that there are few corruption charges against Modi. If you don’t have an investigator, how will you have the scams pouring out? Given Modi’s popularity amongst his people (for different reasons – remember he is called the Hindu Hriday Samrat?), the people are willing to forgive him for not choosing the Lok Ayukta. Even Anna has chosen not to attack him. Is there corruption in Gujarat? Of course there is. Just read the various CAG reports or talk to people who deal with the government there. The only difference in Gujarat (and in other economic-progress oriented states) is that corrupt politicians deliver the goods. Industrialists get what they want and the politicians what they.

Anna’s movement has already been accused of being political. By choosing to attack only the Congress so far, Anna has shown that he is ready to play party politics. It’s now a political battle. The Congress will handle it as such. The fan following that Anna enjoyed is already starting to whittle down. Intellectuals of all hues have already criticized the demand of Team Anna that the JLP be passed with no changes. The attitude of his team has come in for severe criticism from one and all. Several team members have been accused of charges of improper financial conduct (if you prefer not to call them acts of corruption). Several prominent team members have already left the team. Anna is on the backfoot. And deservedly so.

Anna cannot attack Nitish. Nitish is a performing CM elected twice by his people. Even if he were a corrupt demagogue (which he is not), he has a far more justifiable place under the Constitution of India than Anna has. Team Anna is just an aggressive and unreasonable bunch of arrogant people. Team Anna wants to stay out of elections, but still control the governance of this country. Till the time this movement was apolitical, Anna was the messiah for many people. But the moment he entered the political fray, he has lost the support of many.

Who all are against Anna? Apart from the Congress and the UPA, many members of the NDA are now coming out with their own criticisms – Shiv Sena recently berated Anna in its newspaper Saamna. Nitish Kumar did so yesterday. BSP and SP are hardly fans of Anna. The Left has serious problems with several clauses of the JLP and is unlikely to support the JLP in totality. Who’s left? The opportunistic BJP. The party that has almost embraced corruption in Karnataka and Uttarakhand and has had to sack Chief Ministers there; the party that has not appointed a Lok Ayukta in Gujarat for long; the party that has failed to amend the act in Chhatisgarh which says that the Governor shall appoint the Lok Ayukta recommended by the CM (in consultation with – with no compulsions to accept their opinions – the Chief Justice of the HC and the Speaker, a ruling party leader) or in Jharkhand where the CM is excluded from the provisions of the Lok Ayukta Act. This opportunistic party is the only one that claims to support Anna, but in conduct, does otherwise.

Anna is failing to realize a few truths about India. That things move slowly in India. That the final goal is not achieved in one large flourish, but in a series of small steps, many of which are made grudgingly. That is why politicians who come in with grandiose plans and dreams (a la Rajiv Gandhi) very soon realize that the country and its politics is not ready for them. Anna is only now realizing the heterogeneity of this country – where including all sections of the society is a crucial part of any movement.

I know what Anna will do now. He will back off from attacking Nitish further. He will use the excuse of focusing on the Lokpal Act (at the center) to do so. He backed off from Modi also in the past. He has hardly ever spoken against Yeddy. Anna simply doesn’t have the gumption to stay apolitical….

The real truth is that the longer the Anna movement continues; the more opponents it picks up. His is a good movement has has lost its way because of the arrogance of his team – and his own inability to sack them. The movement was turbo-powered by media – but the same media is itself now becoming critical. The next few weeks are crucial…..will Anna have the smartness to work alongside the political establishment, or will he continue down the path his team is leading him to take?????

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