August is here again but the Anna Hazare movement has not succeeded in achieving the same heights of popularity it did last year. The veteran social activist was gaining momentum as a symbol against a corrupt regime and what made it even more attractive for the general people was its non-political platform.
He reminded of the days when the Congress had taken the lead in a struggle against a mighty British empire, largely as a coalition of diverse social forces, under a towering personality called Mahatma Gandhi. It is not that Hazare did not have his critics, for a large section of India's cynic English-speaking middle class and Leftist minds thought he was hijacking the essence of parliamentary democracy and trying to undermine a popularly-elected government. Many scholars said Hazare's simplistic protest is his strong point since the masses essentially perceive him as a symbol against corruption, as simple as that.
Losing the magic touch?
But one year hence, it seems the Anna movement has lost much of its steam. The old man was even heard saying that if violence marred his movement after a tussle broke out between his supporters and mediapersons on Jul 30 night, he would call off the movement. A few days before that, Hazare said he would join politics if people wanted or that he did not care if there were less number of people attending his fasting protest. These statements show that Anna today feels a bit uncertain about the future of his movement.
As CSDS Senior Fellow Yogendra Yadav has said, "The problem with the system is that it encourages you and rewards you for being shallow."
This has been precisely the problem with Anna Hazare. His protest against the establishment was based on the peripheries and did not involve the intricacies of the problem of corruption. The media, which love to project problems in an over-simplified way to cater to the 'modestly enlightened' masses, find people like Anna Hazare all the more a prized asset and their backing of the man as a 'modern-day Gandhi' found a tremendous legitimacy among the masses. The government's little political pragmatism to deal with the phenomenon as well as its loss of creditability also elevated Anna's stature significantly.
Both sides lack tactical superiority
But the battle which promised much excitement soon turned into a stalemate for neither sides succeeded to force any change. While Anna continues to stress an over-simplistic protest with periodic fast by himself and his team, the state lacks a prudent and skilled political leadership to absorb the protest and settle the issue once for all. It seems the government can only think about police action against the protesters but will definitely not explore that path fearing a huge backlash.
Need to kick start the movement
Anna Hazare need to kick start the movement and take it to the next level if he wants to extend its durability. For, by just banking on vague support of people with an 'anti-political' bent of mind, the Hazare brigade can never aspire to defeat the state power. If necessary, Anna should also enter politics with the huge support that backs him time and again and transform it into a solid mandate if he tries to effect any change for the better.
Another problem with Hazare is that he has to depend on the media for his success. Since there is little connection between his struggle with the deeper reality and media uses it to promote him for its own gain, there is a big chance of Anna suffering reverses if the media lose interest in him. The last few days, one might feel, have seen such a possibility unfolding.
That Team Anna members began to accuse parliamentarians and ministers in the open and allegations of corruption being levelled against themselves somewhat diluted the spirit of the movement and from a force solely emphasising on an anti-corruption mission, the team soon got distracted by several other issues. The frequent disagreement on issues which are secondary also slowed down the intensity.
A political battle requires acumen and strategic thinking. The Mahatma, despite his simple looks, had the political skill to shake the mighty British and being his admirer, Anna should learn a lesson from him. Patience is key for any political mission to succeed but Anna Team's turning increasingly impatient with the government to effect a change in terms of the Lokpal has not helped its cause. Association with people like Baba Ramdev hasn't added any value in the eyes of the commoner, who have begun to believe that Anna Hazare's campaign has changed into a farce.
Leading a successful civil rights movement in a diverse socio-economic set-up like India is not an easy thing to do. Just banking on a Mahatma-like fasting to paralyse a strong government will be ineffective. Anna Hazare has raised a new hope by making the politicians answerable outside the Parliament in the true sense of the term and he must back it up with equal intensity and make younger generations interested to carry forward the legacy.
Anna should institutionalise the movement
It is high time that Anna institutionalise the movement, have wings to address diverse issues. It is easy said than done, but at least it will ensure that the hard work Anna has put in so far is not wasted. Anna, one might suspect, is hell-bent to earn India's 'new independence' in his own life time. One can not just reach it in a hurry and can only be achieved, if ever, through perseverance and positive energy. But does Anna have a Plan B?