“Ab aaya oont pahad ke neeche” is what many are saying now that it looks like Anna is going to be launching a political party. Why is that? For one simple reason – now he will learn how complicated politics is; how fragmented public opinion can be, how complex the job of seeking votes is and how little he and his team actually managed to touch the lives of people. The poor quality of his “A” team – egged on by a tamasha seeking media last year – have made Anna believe that only he matters. That only he can reform this country. Only he is clean and everyone else corrupt. And only he is patriotic and no one else. Once he enters politics formally, Anna will realize how easy it looks from the outside and how difficult it is from the inside. Maybe, once he goes through the grind, he will develop a little respect for those he has been so so critical of till now.
Anna says he will support candidates who are “patriotic” and “committed to development” as part of his political strategy. Wow, that’s a fantastically visionary statement! I wonder if Nehru, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, and MN Roy had said that they wanted to support unpatriotic people not committed to development!
In spite of what Anna says about knowing the people of the country, he knows very little of them. His understanding of people’s needs is as shallow as a “manufacturer’s” understanding of “consumer needs” in the early days of industrialization. The manufacturer only knew what he could manufacture; he had no idea of what the consumer wanted. As a result he often failed. The few who knew what consumers wanted and could tailor their manufacturing to meet their needs succeeded. Anna believes that the people want a corruption free country (who doesn’t?), but he fails to realize that this is not a single-point demand that people have. It’s not like all of peoples’ other needs have been taken care off and the only last wish they have left is to remove corruption. People have many complicated compulsions and a political party that is based on the single ideology of corruption is not even a sure starter.
Prashant Bhushan got a taste of what politics could be when he made some stray comments on Kashmir. He got whacked! But when he is on the outside of the political system, he could say “all congressmen are corrupt….that’s why the Kashmir problems still continues” and get away! Prashant Bhushan can be the foreign minister in Anna’s government! Kiran Bedi got a whiff of what being under constant public scrutiny meant when the Indian Express “dug out” figures of her fudged travel statements. And then the story of she using the “corrupt system” to get her daughter into medical college. What minister will she be in Anna’s cabinet? Health maybe? Or Civil Aviation??! And how can one forget Shanti Bhushan’s “luck” (since he apparently didn’t curry favor with Mayawati) when he got “allotted” a juicy plot of land at throwaway prices? How many politicians has Anna accused of similar stuff?? Will Shanti Bhushan be the Minister tasked with bringing in a Land Reforms bill?! And what about the self-righteous Arvind Kejriwal? Yes, the one who refused to pay the sums due to the Government when he stayed off duty but continued collecting his salary? How many such scalps would he have devoured if he hadn’t been the one who got caught but the one who made the charge? And given his penchant for financial bunglings, will Anna make him the Finance Minister??! Won’t be long before we hear the same statements that his team makes of the present government: “This is a deaf and dumb government and it is futile to expect anything from them”!
When Anna looks at choosing his candidates, how will he confront the five major schisms of Indian society (as Ramachandra Guha brings out in his book India after Gandhi): Caste, Religion, Class, Sex and Language? If he hopes his candidates can cut through all this “moral corruption in society”, he will soon get a hard landing.
A political party is much more than an NGO or a movement focused on just one issue. What is Anna’s view on “uniform civil code”? What does he think about our “reservations policy”? What about increasing agricultural productivity using pesticides? What about GM crops? What about power production (his team member Medha Patkar likes none of the three major methods of production – nuclear, thermal and hydro power! Maybe he should make her the Power Minister!
Once he has chosen his candidates, and they have to travel to canvas across the country, he will soon realize how the inflation has increased travel costs! Who will bear these costs? Will he use the electronic media for communicating with his voters? He’ll soon see how much that costs! And what about those who are being given booze bottles to vote for someone? Will he tie them up to electric poles and beat them with his belt???
If nothing else, Anna’s political foray will teach him a little bit of humility. All senior politicians today started off as raucous revolutionaries. But over time, and as they donned roles of responsibility, they realized that nation building is a complicated task. It takes much more than mere rhetoric to do so. Being a good orator helps a politician, but being just a good orator is no good. Anna will soon realize that!
I hold Anna guilty of having first raised our consciousness about corruption and then wilfully failing to deliver. If only he realized how India works – in spurts and starts….one step forward, half backward – then he would have agreed with the Lokpal Bill as passed in the LS. It’s not perfect, but is a good beginning. A few years later, a smart Anna would have rallied again and brought about changes. That’s how laws get made. No one gets it perfect in the first shot. But by insisting that his and only his draft of the JLP be passed, Anna has done great disservice to this country.
The real truth is that Anna joining politics will come as a shocker to him. He will soon realize this is not his kettle of fish. Hopefully, he will learn from his experiences. Hopefully, he will appreciate what those who are inside the system have to go through. Hopefully, this will make him a little realistic and pragmatic. Anna doesn’t have too much time, but if he realizes this soon, maybe it’s not too late to make amends. We’ll wait and see what happens…..but for now it sure appears that the corrupt world of politics has ensnared Anna!