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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2010

Where is Hazare’s Corruption Crusade?

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

Not for the first time in the last three years or so, Anna Hazare, the crusader against corruption, wrote to Narendra Modi on August 30 that he will launch an agitation because the promised Lokayukt (Ombudsman) has not been appointed yet, nor Lokpal laws enacted.

In fact, in his latest missive he has threatened to come to Delhi from his Maharashtra perch to restart the anti-corruption campaign that had propelled him into a formidable national figure, heading the India Against Corruption campaign (IAC), during the last days of UPA-II rule.

Will he be able to do what he says? Hazare has either lost his following or his ability to recreate the anti-corruption frenzy witnessed before the last Lok Sabha election has vanished. By his own admission, he has written ‘many times’ to the prime minister about the Lokayukt and Lokpal bill but received neither any reply nor seen any ‘action’.

Modi is in a position to ignore Hazare’s letters because he seems confident of dealing easily with any campaign or agitation that Hazare may launch. There are many reasons that make Modi sure that he can of counter any move against him, not the least being the unquestioning media support that he enjoys widely.

On the other hand, Hazare does not seem to have the strength to take Modi on. The attention paid to him and the reverence shown to him by the media in pre- May 2014 days is gone. His capacity to collect crowd is in question with the RSS no more on his side. The prominent figures that had backed Hazare earlier have deserted him for greener pastures.

For instance, Arvind Kejriwal has floated a political party (much against Hazare’s wish) and has become an active politician. Kiran Bedi is a very ‘active’ Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. The assortment of Bollywood stars who had joined the IAC bandwagon have either become disinterested or joined the Modi admirers’ club. The saffron support in Bollywood, now in the open, must have surprised those who thought liberal and secular voices continued to dominate the entertainment world.

One of the biggest ‘attractions’ during the IAC campaign was Baba Ram Dev, the contortionist extraordinaire whose zeal for business has unnerved many multi-national companies. The Baba was even then an open supporter of the BJP. Now, he can be described as a leading torch bearer of the Modi-led government. He may not be allergic to hearing the C word, but for him corruption is still confined to the parties opposed to the BJP.

It is for Hazare to ponder why corruption has survived even after he had unsuccessfully seen the demolition of the previous ‘corrupt’ regime. In his August 30 letter to Modi, he wrote that people voted for him because they trusted him but even today ‘no work gets done without paying money.’

Taking a dig at Modi, he said that the ‘promise’ of bringing back black money has not been addressed. He told Modi that contrary to loud claims by the government, inflation has not come down. The farmers were awaiting remunerative prices for their produce while the prime minister had shown more concern about the interests of industrialists. These issues have not figured even once in Modi’s Man ki Baat, lamented Hazare.

And chances are they will not figure in the future either. It is not difficult to surmise, considering his disappointment with Modi for failing to keep his words that Hazare’s large support in earlier days came from organised groups like the RSS and other Opposition groups of the time. For the IAC campaign was as much against the then ruling dispensation as it was—ostensibly-- against corruption and other social evils.

‘Ostensible’ because now the vehemence of raising voices against corruption has disappeared altogether in the country. Plausible charges of corruption against those in power are dismissed out of hand with the media largely refusing to ask any questions.

Hazare cannot expect Modi to redeem his election-time ‘promises’ when they are either said to have been fulfilled or dismissed as ‘jumlas’ (poll rhetoric). A bigger hurdle that Hazare will find hard to overcome is the emergence of a partisan ‘mainstream’ media which gives little space to dissenting voices.

The choice before Anna Hazare is difficult. He cannot abandon the anti-corruption platform which made him a national figure. He cannot force the hands of Modi and his government to take their poll promises a little seriously unless Hazare can garner some support from politicians and the media. Frankly, he can bank on neither.

This is not to suggest that it essentially means the end of the road for Hazare and the cause that he espoused so passionately for three or four years prior to the 2014 parliamentary poll. He should have no difficulty in rediscovering his earlier days as an activist when he was championing the cause of Maharashtrian farmers, including the problem of suicides by debt-ridden farmers. One can see that the plight of farmers in Maharashtra has not improved despite the regime change; if anything it has become worse. So in a sense he has an issue at his door-step.

By reinventing his appeal on the basis of farmers’ plight, Hazare will be confronting a less powerful man, the chief minister of Maharashtra. Of course, a chief minister can also be very hard on opponents but not in the same way as the most powerful man in the country, the prime minister.

It might work to Hazare’s advantage that Shiv Sena, ironically an ally of the Maharashtra government, is also unhappy at the plight of farmers. He does not have to align himself or even formally seek support from Shiv Sena. He has to start a farmers’ agitation in the spirit shown by him during the India Against Corruption days. But that will be just the beginning. He can plan a bigger move only if it succeeds.

- Asian Tribune -

Anna Hazare - Crusader against corruption
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