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Why Hazare's Hisar ploy is deliberately misunderstood

Last updated on: October 13, 2011 08:11 IST

Image: Veteran activist Anna Hazare
Mahesh Vijapurkar

We don't know what kind of a beast the Lokpal Bill would turn out to be. Nor, for that matter, what shape it would take when processed by Parliament. It could well be constitutional, perhaps even draconian. It could even be useful to curb the widespread corruption that runs deep. The anti-corruption law is into the future. Whatever it turns out to be, we need to thank Anna Hazare for it.

The current belief in the political circles, especially the ruling elite at the Centre, is that Anna Hazare has called the wrong shots in Hisar, Haryana, by asking people not to vote for the Congress candidate in a parliamentary by-election underway there.

This has been read as his tacit support to the opposition, which principally is the Bharatiya Janata Party in almost a bipolar polity. By extending the logic, it stemmed out of a deal with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, they say.

Mahesh Vijapurkar is a Thane-based commentator on public affairs

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'Hazare's strategy to win the larger war against corruption'

Image: Supporters of Anna Hazare protest for a stronger Lokpal Bill in Hyderabad
Photographs: Reuters

I disagree with this thesis entirely. Those who peddle it ad nauseam have given the entire strategy of Hazare a wrong construct. Hazare's move does not translate into support for the people he has not opposed in Hisar.

That would be a simplistic interpretation, even facile. But the clever Congress machinery has managed to convey the impression that Hazare was on the RSS bandwagon on the premise that if he was not against the right, then he was with them.

Hazare is simply using a tactic. He is building huge pressure on the Congress which is the main actor in the saga of trying to spurn the public demand for a strict anti-graft mechanism. It was the Congress which negotiated with Anna and his team, ignoring other political parties, allies and the opposition. It had taken upon itself the responsibility, on behalf of the entire political class, to scuttle the anti-graft demand.

Hazare is being strategic, with astute common sense, in Hisar, to win the larger war against corruption. This where a person and his group though being outside the system have emerged as the main players in an election, with only a public interest in their minds, not politics. If there are political ramifications to the ruling party, so be it.

'The tragedy is the media'

Image: Anna Hazare waves to mediapersons after attending a joint Lokpal drafting committee meeting in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters

In fact, the political ramifications to the Congress, is the leverage -- thank you, Manish Tewari for the elegant phrase -- that the unelectable are using to deny easy electoral fruits to the electable.

There have been some past instances of public opinion being moulded by non-political figures, like Jayaprakash Narayan's movement's achievement, like the campaign that unseated Chimanbhai Patel in Gujarat. That was a time when people's voice found traction and politicians were treated like dirt.

Though, as always happens, all politicians spring back to life and ruin a system, convert it into something inimical to the people.

No wonder, the Congress is petrified at the possible prospect of the Hisar polls being influenced by Hazare's campaign. The fear is betrayed by Manmohan Singh's offer to 'consider' right to recall -- an aspirin offered by the person with the headache to the person causing it. Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh shows up this nervousness in the open letter to Hazare where he has openly accused him of being an RSS ploy. Digvijay Singh, it so happens, has a tendency to run at the mouth.

The tragedy is the media, a glutton for easy headlines, is trying to mould the public opinion by carrying the Congress line, hook and sinker, so to say, and pestering Hazare and India Against Corruption as RSS and BJP stooges. The premise here is the support offered by these two entities to the anti-corruption campaign. It is as if the RSS and BJP, despite the stains on them for other reasons, have no right to demand a clean, graft-free governance mechanism.

'The voter, Hazare is trying to say, has a voice'

Image: Supporters of Anna Hazare at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.
Photographs: Reuters

Because there was corruption during the National Democratic Alliance regime, they have no right to speak about it, or so goes the argument. Because there was sting revealing Bangaru Lakshman grabbing wads of notes, the right has no moral ground to make even a passing mention of the corruption rife in the country.

But, the counter is, is the Congress clean? Has it ever been clean? Are its allies clean? The spate of corruption charges and the strength of the political and bureaucratic class locked up in Tihar equally divest the Congress of its right to speak a word about the malaise.

Of course, Hazare is supposed to be everywhere and multitask, attend to every malaise in society and answer questions about why he was not dealing with the non-appointment of a Lokayukta in Gujarat, why he was not involved in a plethora of issues.

Though he and his team have repeatedly said that they would deal with such issues when they can. If, for instance, the BJP does not get its own state governments to put in place solutions to corruption, it would be treated likewise. But no, he has to do it now. Because the Congress and the media so demand. Because it has been glossed over despite repeated statements on television.

But Hazare is trying to instil the fear of the voter among the politicians. He wants the paradigm where they say: "We know how to run the country. Give your vote and get lost."

The voter, he is trying to say, has a voice, has a value and is the cornerstone of democracy. Not the politician, who is where he is at the sufferance of the voter.