ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Strange Justifications

The Anna Hazare group's foray into electoral politics exposes its shaky foundations.

The script of this drama was already written. A single issue campaign, focused narrowly on corruption in public life without a wider world view on the root causes of corruption or on the myriad other problems afflicting Indian society, had to come apart at the seams at some point. That moment arrived when “Team Anna”, as the people behind social activist Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign like to call themselves, decided that the recent Hisar assembly by-election was an appropriate site for testing an anti-corruption strategy. In a contest where the outcome was a foregone conclusion with the late Bhajan Lal’s son, Kuldeep Bishnoi, certain of victory, the Anna group chose to target the certain loser, the Congress candidate. The justification for doing this was strange. It was, they said, because the Congress president did not give a written undertaking that the Lokpal Bill would be passed in the winter session of Parliament. The fact that the prime minister had publicly given such an undertaking apparently did not count. And when asked how they chose to oppose the man with the cleanest public record, as compared to the victor and his nearest opponent, they argued that in the absence of the right to recall or reject, they felt compelled to target the only party that had not publicly committed itself to the Lokpal Bill. This is a convoluted justification for its anti-Congress campaign, and now deep fissures in the core group of Anna Hazare are out in the open. Two people have withdrawn from the team and several others have questioned the wisdom of the Hisar intervention, which appears to be the personal whim of one member of the core group, Arvind Kejriwal.

If the Hisar decision was not enough to cause strains, member Prashant Bhushan’s statement supporting a plebiscite in Kashmir has exposed the strongly contrasting and apparently irreconcilable perspectives within the group. Bhushan has had to face not just a physical attack by members of the Sri Ram Sene but hear counter views from colleagues, including from Anna Hazare, who has declared that he is prepared to fight another war against Pakistan and that Kashmir is “an integral part of India”. Such an outcome could also have been predicted. Once you proclaim that your views are those of the “nation”, as Anna Hazare and his group repeatedly did during the heady days of the anti-corruption crusade, you relinquish the right to proclaim individual opinions on a variety of issues including Kashmir, or to pursue individual strategies as in Hisar. This is the reality now haunting the Anna group.

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