That Gandhian Anna Hazare was going on an indefinite fast from August 16 has been the talk of the town for months, but the government woke up from its slumber only after his agitation kickstarted. For 12 days, till Hazare called off his fast, the central leadership went from one crisis to another.
On one side, we had the entire Parliament scratching its head trying to decide what to do next and on the other side standing strong was Hazare, India Against Corruption and its volunteers. The government arrested the Gandhian in haste and then sent him to Tihar jail -- the same prison in which former telecom minister A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi have been lodged along with their ilk for their roles in the 2G and Commonwealth Games scams. Wonder what Raja and Kalmadi thought about sharing the premises with Hazare?
Getting Hazare into jail proved to be much easier than getting him out of it. In a masterstroke that would have been the envy of any chess grandmaster, he continued his fast in jail and also refused to leave till all his demands were met.
It was Round 2 for Hazare as far as the indefinite fast went. In April, he was given permission to hold a fast at Jantar Mantar but for a limited time -- Hazare went without food for four days. After his fast at Tihar, he was given the nod to protest at the much bigger Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. He had received permission for a fortnight, which could later be extended. Thankfully, the need did not arise!
A Hazare wave swept the country. The 12 days in August saw protests from Jammu to Thiruvananthapuram, from Guwahati to Mumbai. Hundreds joined him in the fast, but the government seemed unmoved. They continued to insist that Parliament was supreme and they would have the final say in law-making.
A week went by and Hazare was still fasting. His health became a major concern, the Lokpal Bill secondary. But the 74-year-old emphasised that the fight against corruption was top priority and everything else was secondary.
Rumour mills were abuzz that the government would arrest Hazare and force feed him and many were worried that the agitation would turn violent if such extreme measures were adopted. But better sense prevailed and the government did not do anything to precipitate matters.
Even after the prime minster, the leader of the Opposition and the entire House requested him to quit the fast, Hazare refused to relent. There was a split of sorts in Team Anna and they started speaking in different voices. Many ordinary folk opined that it was time for Hazare to stop.
After all, for the aam aadmi his health was a genuine concern. The fact that he is 74 was on top of their mind, even though doctors were monitoring his health every hour.
Parliament finally got its act together and after a marathon debate where 27 speakers spoke and 11 did not get a chance to speak, they finally came to a conclusion. They agreed in principle to accept Hazare's three key demands. There was no vote so we still don't know how many of our 545 MPs in the Lok Sabha actually are in favour of the Jan Lokpal.
At 10:20 am on Sunday, as Hazare broke his fast with coconut water and honey, the entire nation erupted in joy -- Anna Hazare was safe!
The Lokpal Bill is now with the parliamentary standing sommittee, but will Hazare's demands be met. Still, no one knows!
Will the majority of the members of Parliament vote to pass the Lokpal bill in the way the public wants it? No one is sure. Most people expect a watered-down version.
There are many laws against corruption in India. The Lokpal Bill will be one more law that the people can use to fight corruption. But making laws are easy, implementing them difficult, as we know too well in India.
If anti-corruption laws already available in our country were implemented properly, there would be no need for the Lokpal Bill. And if the Lokpal Bill is not implemented properly, we will be back to where we have always been.