Sunday, 13 November 2011

Team Anna is unravelling, and Anna is no Gandhi

From FirstPost

Is anyone happy to see the Anna Hazare campaign quickly begin to unravel? The Congress party, of course, and, secretly, probably every politician who would have faced the Lokpal’s scrutiny in the years to come. Not to name bureaucrats and others who have similarly been lining their pockets over the years without being found out.
The unraveling of the campaign hasn’t really come as a surprise; I, for one, have expected it from the start, and have been saying so from the time Hazare went on his fast at the Ramlila grounds. My scepticism was based on this: while the platform of anti-corruption was strong, Hazare’s team itself was weak.
While the platform of anti-corruption was strong, Hazare’s team itself was weak.PTI
The strength of the platform needs no explanation: everyone in the country is fed up of corruption and has been so for years because all of us come across it all the time. But the recent massive escalation of the scale of corruption, exemplified by the 2G scam, was the massive beam that broke the camel’s back. Anna Hazare stepped in at the right time. But was he the right man for the job?
His ‘Gandhian’ credentials seemed impeccable. Yet what everyone overlooked was that being Gandhian did not mean just living a frugal life, and a clean one, where wants and desires are cut down to a minimum. Real Gandhian living also involves deep thought and a fully worked out philosophy to back a strategically planned line of action.
Mahatma Gandhi was an educated man, a lawyer qualified from law school in England, and he had a very complex mind. The kindest word you can use about Annna Hazare’s intellectual capabilities is that he is a simple man. That being the case, he has been led by his group of advisors, rather than he leading them.
And what a group of advisors! On top of the heap, mainly because of her self-projecting visibility and her assertiveness, is Kiran Bedi. Talk to any of her former IPS colleagues, as I have done, and you will find not one, not a single one, having a kind word to say about her. She was the first woman IPS officer, had a wonderful knack for publicity, and the media bought her story wholesale.
Now she has had to climb down from the lofty perch she had clambered on. Earlier, when anyone questioned her inflated airline bills, which continue to remain in the news, her stock (tweeted) reply was, “You are committing a sin.” Now she’s quietly owned up, paid the difference between actual fares and inflated bills to the organisers who had invited her. And when asked about this by reporters at a Mumbai function, gave one of her ‘clever’ replies, “A rose comes with the thorns.”
Anna Hazare’s answer to this is to defend Kiran Bedi, and ask the question: has Bedi’s family benefited from the inflated payments she falsely obtained from organisers? In typical fashion, he has tried to turn the tables on the accusers instead, saying that a ‘Gang of Four’ in the government is behind all this, and this unnamed foursome is out to scuttle the Lokpal Bill.
Let’s consider some of the points raised by the recent controversy shorn of the Hazare rhetoric:
The Kiran Bedi false voucher story was broken by the Indian Express. The newspaper has since found 18 more fake bills given by Bedi (Presumably she will return this money to organisers too). Does this mean that the Indian Express is opposed to the Lokpal Bill? Is The Express part of the Gang of Four?
• Kiran Bedi’s rationale for the inflated bills is that the money went to her NGO (not her family members). Does that mean that as long as your cause is good (your own NGO), it is ok to cheat others? The questionable morality of this is so very glaring, yet it does not strike Anna Hazare that anything is wrong. In fact, when the Lokpal Bill is passed, this should be the very first case presented to it.
Loyalty is a good thing, but you shouldn’t be blinded by it. Anna Hazare obviously is. Apart from Kiran Bedi, how does he overlook the stupidities of Team Anna which is threatening to derail the movement?
Arvind Kejriwal is a case point. After years of obscurity, the man is now so continuously in the limelight, that his new-found celebrity status has obviously gone to his head. What else explains the opinions he has now on everything under the sun? What else explains that disastrous foray into the Hisar by-election, when he single-handedly made the anti-corruption movement into an anti-Congress one?
The foot-in-mouth disease struck Prashant Bhushan, too. Why did he need to make pronouncements on Kashmir? What on earth does that have to do with the anti-corruption movement? Anna Hazare at least sticks to his one-point programme: why doesn’t he ask his team to talk of the Lokpal Bill, and the Lokpal Bill alone?
Some people have argued that it is unfair to look too closely at the credentials of Team Anna. That it is enough that they have brought the Lokpal Bill and corruption to the forefront of national debate, and that this signal contribution should absolve them from microscopic scrutiny.
It’s a specious argument, but I would be prepared to go along with that if  Team Anna hadn’t set itself up as moral crusaders. But from the word go, each and every member of the team has adopted a strident moralistic tone, a holier-than-thou attitude. Once you do that, once you put yourself on a pedestal you can bet people will try and pull you down. And why not?

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