During Sunday’s joint fast undertaken by Ramdev and Anna Hazare Arvind Kejriwal named several politicians accused of corruption as being opponents of the Lokpal Bill. Immediately Ramdev distanced himself from these remarks by stating that the movement was not against individuals but against corruption. He criticized the naming of individuals by Kejriwal. Kejriwal stormed out of the meeting in a huff. Who was right and who was wrong? Ramdev was right and Kejriwal was wrong.
Indeed the current propensity of Team Anna to selectively name certain politicians, including the Prime Minister, for alleged corruption strengthens suspicions about its real agenda voiced in these columns from the very outset.
|It is universally accepted that the most powerful politician in the UPA is Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. According to popular belief the PM cannot move an inch without her blessing. How odd, then, that Team Anna can wax eloquent about all ministers and the PM but not one Team member even once has dared utter the name of Mrs. Gandhi?
When Anna Hazare descended in public demanding the creation of Jan Lokpal this writer had expressed extreme skepticism about its efficacy. If the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) empowered to identify corruption, to probe it and to monitor public spending were not delivering satisfactory results why would Jan Lokpal succeed? The crucial questions about who would appoint Lokpal and to who would that office remain accountable were never satisfactorily addressed. Certain systemic reforms for improving the performance of CVC, CBI and CAG are being ignored during the chase of an illusory Lokpal. But the doubts entertained about Team Anna went beyond mere flaws of the Lokpal concept as a panacea for curbing corruption.
At the very start of this movement certain observations were made. The movement was blessed by members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Mrs. Gandhi’s plan for a personal intervention to end the first fast of Anna Hazare at Jantar Mantar was derailed by the unscheduled appearance of Baba Ramdev who was initially shunned by the Team Anna for being too saffron. Team Anna’s obsessive concern with the provisions of the proposed Lokpal succeeded in diverting public attention focused firmly until then on several ongoing corruption cases including the 2G scam and the Commonwealth Games scam. Those cases faded from public attention as the fierce debate on the Lokpal Bill unleashed by the spurious anti-corruption movement took centre stage.
However, with the passage of time the sheen of Team Anna wore off. Hazare’s fast in Mumbai proved a flop. Desperate to regain media attention Team Anna started naming politicians for being corrupt and demanded action against them. This worked up to a point. But to regain the momentum Team Anna was compelled to join forces with Ramdev who has with his vast financial resources built a formidable organization. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar the in-house saint of the powerful media chain that was at the forefront of the anti-corruption movement intervened and with his influence brought Hazare and Ramdev together. Politicians and media described this as a marriage between Ramdev’s organization and Hazare’s credibility.
Hazare’s reputation as a Gandhian is again the creation of corporate media. His symbolic fasts were projected as the return to Gandhian values. His outbursts about hanging the corrupt and flogging imbibers of liquor were tactfully downplayed. His indictment by a judicial Commission of Inquiry accusing him of diverting funds for personal benefit from a public Trust was virtually ignored. To recapture public attention Team Anna has started to accuse the Prime Minister of personal corruption. Arvind Kejriwal has quoted the CAG report to demand an investigation. He says that all he demands is an investigation. Why should the PM and 13 other named ministers resist a probe if they are innocent? This sounds fair.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi accused Team Anna of being pro-BJP which was why it selectively named Congress ministers for investigation. Rashid Alvi forgets. Team Anna always had reservations about the BJP. Only fast dwindling support compelled Team Anna to join forces with Ramdev who is perceived to be closer to the Sangh Parivar. But the names provided by Team Anna are indeed selective. That brings us to what created doubts about the movement from the first day. Team Anna can name the PM and 13 ministers. But its deafening silence about another individual is becoming more conspicuous every day.
On 17 October 2011 I wrote in this space: “The (Anna Hazare) movement was a diversion masterminded by very, very big powers… indicated by the original blessing given to it by the National Advisory Council (NAC) team headed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. It should be kept in mind that Hazare’s endeavor got worldwide publicity. A little earlier Europe had celebrated the “Year of Gandhi” in memory of the Mahatma. The Hazare Team’s instant success appeared to be the result of a prepared script.”
It is universally accepted that the most powerful politician in the UPA is Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. According to popular belief the PM cannot move an inch without her blessing. How odd, then, that Team Anna can wax eloquent about all ministers and the PM but not one Team member even once has dared utter the name of Mrs. Gandhi? When Rashid Alvi accuses Team Anna of being soft on the BJP he forgets that its members have always been at pains to distance themselves from the saffron brigade. In this charade about the fight against corruption the opposition in fact may be just a bit player. It is entirely possible that the real subterranean struggle is between factions within the Congress.
Arvind Kejriwal quite understandably demands investigation by an independent agency to probe alleged corruption of cabinet ministers including the PM. Admittedly Mrs. Gandhi is not in the cabinet. But is her power and share of decision making in doubt? And does not the fact that Switzerland’s most influential journal categorically stated that a Swiss bank account of over 2 billion US dollars in the name of Rajiv Gandhi existed, the fact that a former official KGB Commission member Yevgenia Albats has written in her doctoral research book that the KGB funded Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the fact that an official spokesperson of the Russian government acknowledged to media that such funds were indeed paid by the Soviet government to Mrs. Gandhi in order to protect its foreign policy, merit in the view of Kejriwal an investigation by a credible agency? It may be considered unfair to doubt the integrity of Team Anna. But to dispel such unhealthy speculation there is a simple solution. Let Team Anna demand an investigation of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in the same manner as it does of 14 cabinet ministers. It is an easy litmus test. Will Team Anna take it?