Why Anna Hazare may Fail

Anna Hazare’s movement is beginning to falter. To pretend otherwise would be indulging in self deceit. From the outset I was skeptical about the movement’s success. This was largely because I considered the Lokpal demand a misconceived, over simplistic red herring to divert attention from the actual exposure of corruption that was proceeding satisfactorily. Instead, by offering this magical and somewhat nonsensical palliative to banish all corruption a public, sick and tired of the prevailing situation, was successfully inveigled by corporate media to be diverted from corruption cases. 

Anna Hazare suffers from the failing of all modern Gandhians. He is busy replicating the symbolic rituals of the Mahatma without recapturing any of his substance.

That the movement was a diversion masterminded by very, very big powers was 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. But soon things went awry. Baba Ramdev, the Sangh Parivar, and elements within the cabinet not really sympathetic to the NAC and Mr. Hazare, swung into action. Baba Ramdev’s unscheduled dash by helicopter to Delhi and presence alongside Mr. Hazare at Jantar Mantar scuttled at the last moment Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s planned visit to the spot to offer sympathy and juice to the fasting Gandhian. 

After that things went out of control. The running commentary offered by Mr. Digvijay Singh did not help. Indeed, the Congress general secretary’s statements did much to gladden supporters of the Sangh Parivar by pushing the movement into its lap. Mr. Digvijay Singh is too intelligent not to have realized the political impact of his statements. The question of whether he acted through misplaced zeal to serve Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, or whether Anna Hazare’s long stint of working under him in the State Planning Commission when he was Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister indicated devious undisclosed strategy, had best be left to conspiracy theorists.  Due to the rocky dialogue with cabinet ministers, public pronouncements of support by the Sangh Parivar and the divisions among the Team Hazare members who seem unfit to successfully run a mass movement, the Hazare endeavor began to flounder. The public anger aroused against corruption will not abate. But public confidence in the movement’s goal of eradicating corruption is beginning to erode.

The immature statements by several members of Team Hazare, the visible rift among them, and Anna Hazare’s effort to distance him from some of their utterances, did the rest. The foregone result of the Hisar by-poll will do little to restore confidence in the movement. Instead Hazare’s decision to stay away from all criticism of the Congress until the end of parliament’s winter session is only weakening public confidence in the movement. The final clincher of course comes from the latest news that contacts between Mr. Rahul Gandhi and Mr. Anna Hazare have been created. A dialogue between the two is expected to follow. So it seems to be full circle back to square one. The original nexus between 10 Janpath and Mr. Anna Hazare might well be re-established. That might further confuse all erstwhile supporters of the movement. However, my skepticism about the movement’s success does not arise from any of the failings listed thus far.  Nor does skepticism arise from the Supreme Court admitting a petition alleging financial irregularities in Mr. Hazare’s Trust. Doubts about Mr. Anna Hazare’s ability to deliver arise from causes more fundamental.

Mr. Hazare suffers from the failing of all modern Gandhians. He is busy replicating the symbolic rituals of the Mahatma without recapturing any of his substance. Mahatma Gandhi did not need the advice of advertising experts from within or outside the nation. He was a master communicator. He had a unique message to deliver. He used rituals and symbols with uncommon skill to empathize with the public. He was an original. The spurious replication of Gandhiji’s symbolism without any really original message to deliver will not work. To eradicate corruption the Jan Lokpal is a non-starter. Mr. Hazare’s decision to observe maun vrat, day of silence, is unlikely to impress the youth. These ancient gimmicks will only gel with an older generation and corporate media under orders to perform. If there is a genuine new Mahatma Gandhi out there somewhere he might well be wearing jeans and working on his computer. There is a new world. There are new problems. There is need for new solutions. The four decade old proposal to create the Lokpal is not the answer. A fasting caricature of Mahatma Gandhi who does not hesitate to demand that the corrupt should be hanged is not tomorrow’s leader. The situation demands revolutionary change. That will only come from revolutionary ideas. 


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

Top | Analysis

Views: 3365      Comments: 10

Comment Dear Sir,

I see that if big movements fail, the small ones will not succeed either.

Mainly because the small ones, even while having better agenda than the big ones, will not be able to synergize public anger and opinion to accumulate force big enough to compell for a permanent change.

That's how those small revolts against British failed to make a difference, at least one occured each year from 1858 to 1946.

By drawing anology, the time is short to make a difference in Indian politics.

My previous comment was pointing to divergence in public opinion taking place now due to various reports in media about team Anna and the movement. Petty issues are given equal importance to the big ones having national interests in stack - I will consider such news items an effort to reduce public support for Lokpal.

Second, why I should not consider that NAC propped up Anna in order to initiate a movement that is only big enough to dissipate public anger, while we are still in mid of the Loksabha term. They might have miscalculated the prospective support, which changed the game altogather.

But, does it still questions Anna Hazare's intentions ?


Look at the direction these politicians are taking us to - (last week) Mr. P. Chidambaram asked CMs to take all precautions to prevent communal violence from now till Jan 2012 as many festivals are coming in thie period !!
I don't know if any previous home minister or any other cabinet minister has linked communal violence to festivals.

While, media prints such news happily without questioning the rational behind.

So, this is the direction the nation is drifting into, and hence the sense of urgency to bring a change.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
23-Oct-2011 05:56 AM

Comment Mr. Bohre,
You have missed the point. Nobody says that corruption and black money movements should be allowed to fail. Regardless of Lokpal movement they will succeed. If Lokpal is created, very good! If it falters, never mind. The movements will not fail. Lokpal by itself means very little. The national sentiment against corruption means everything. That is what we must focus on.

My Word
23-Oct-2011 04:29 AM

Comment Dear Sir,

Why Lokpal and black money movements are too important to let them fail:

Between 1857 (after 'Swatantrata Sangram' ended) and 1947 (when India got independence from British rule), each year saw at least one revolt against British tyranny in one or the other part of undivided India. That indicates the continuous fight against British rule. But did British bothered by those revolts and public outrage against them ?

Then, there were some BIG movements in between - the movements of 1922 (Asahyog Andolan), 1930 (Savinay Avagya Andolan) and 1942 (Bhrat Chhodo andolan).

Had 1922 movement was successful, there would have been a different and much better, stronger & developed Bharat emerged by now (or even by 1980).
Millions of people who died between 1922 and 1947 because of absence of basic facilities would have survived and tens of millions would have achieved a moderate lifestyle by 1940s - just to indicate a few positives.

That is the cost of losing the fight, while public anger remained throughout till 1947.

The current Lokpal movement and Black money movement, both are big enough to bring the change big enough that will change the way India is governed. And if the battle is lost now, it will be another generation at least before something will happen - while public anger may prevail all these 10 or 20 years.

And the world situation will not remain same in these 10-20 years, India will lose many opportunities on the way while corrupts keep ruling us. It's not only about international matters, but their effect on domestic matters as well. If same trend persists, we will be soon 'brown, english speaking Americans, living in India, belonging to Indian origin'.

Recently, there was an article ('Crumbling Social Secutiry for Grey-Haired, on growing problems of old age people in
India, this is just one of the serious problems we are going to face if the way the country is governed is not changed now.

That is why, I see Lokpal and black money movements too important to be ignored and get failed. We can let it fail only at a huge cost (cost to our individual life as well as cost to the whole nation).

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
23-Oct-2011 02:43 AM

Comment Anna Hazare originally was propped up by Sonia Gandhi's NAC. Much has happened after that. Why the twists and turns in the Anna story confuse some of you is that you see the Congress as one entity. But there are serious factions within the Congress reaching right up to the very top. These both harmed and helped Anna. Today Anna is against the Dynasty. But is he against the PM? Are there any differences between the PM and Mrs. Gandhi? There are serious question marks over these issues. It would be reckless to pretend knowing the answers. But the situation is very fluid. There are divisions among all parties. And intrigue has never been higher. So wait and watch. Finally, don't entirely identify and confuse the fight against corruption with the creation of a Lokpal. Some of you might have discovered corruption after the Lokpal movement grew. Many others were fighting corruption long before Anna Hazare or Ramdev surfaced. That fight will not go away. And the awakened nation, thanks to the exertions of Anna Hazare and Ramdev movements, will not now rest easy.

My Word
21-Oct-2011 21:48 PM

Comment Dear Sir,

After pondering over the subject and points in this article - logically I don't believe Anna Hazare is working with intentions to favour Congress.

He and the team, may be getting unintentionally swayed in the direction the Congres most powerful people want to. But that is because of difference in level of politics and cunningness the team Anna and its leader has as compared to the powerfuls in Congress.

Second, although the idea that Lokpal is remedy to all corruption issues in India is be misconceived (and team Anna might be aware about this), it is very much in interest of this nation that we get a strong Lokpal immediately in place that can investigate against all politicians - including the PM. That would bring huge impact in next Loksabha eletions, where we will see a whole lot of cleaner politicians contesting elections - the powerfuls of the congress trying to jeopardise Lokpal movement will probably be out of politics (and hence they will no more be as powerful as they are today).

Third, the alternative (and better) option to provide President larger power who can work as super Lokpal - will not come in current scenario. Why will the politicians allow a bigger change than Lokpal, when they are clearly tryong to derail the Lokpal movement now ? So, that's out of practical possibility. It should be considered as part of theoritical and academic discussions for now.

And last, if Lokpal movement fails now, what else is going to trigger a 'turn-around' in Indian politics in near future ?

And in view of other challenges, you will certainly agree the price for not overcoming those challenges.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
21-Oct-2011 13:28 PM

Comment Mr. Puri, your article has some inherent contradiction. You have propounded a conspiracy theory at the beginning of blog article for the readers. However, once you have reached a critical point of complexity where theory fails to explain all aspects, you have denounced the same by cleverly leaving for other conspiracy theorists to work upon the same.

You are right, MK Gandhi was Marketing/ Communication genius of extraordinaire. He always ensured that print media was covering all his actions and movements. There are no free lunches, Gandhi provided patronage to Bajaj and Birla corporates, showed his moral obligation to Motilal Nehru by vetoing Patel's on becoming PM. Unfortunately, all these aspects very silently and intentionally undermined by Congress led Indian historians. Also every thing looks hunk-dory in post analysis of Gandhinian era, but contemporary reality might have been different. As an example, please try to re-analyse the 1942 Do or Die movement, Bengal famine and other incidents from 1939 till 1946. You will get the picture of muddled and selfish thinking/ approach on many Congress leadership side. Brits did create similar confusions.

Additionally, when today's aged people (who might have seen Gandhi's era as TODDLER, YOUNG KID or Teenager) talk about their old memories, they normally want to embellish their own childhood and past. This is not an unusual psychological phenomenon.

However, my faith in success of movement does not depend just in TEAM Anna, but in the concept of Good Lokpal that helps to strengthen effective and efficient governance. Expecting everything from TEAM ANNA alone or giving credit for everything to TEAM ANNA is quite like accepting the statement "Sabarmati key sant tuney kar diya kamaal, dey di hume Ajaadi, bina khadag bina dhaal", a simplistic approach that helps us to avoid analysis effort.

20-Oct-2011 18:55 PM

Comment Well written piece! Congrats Mr Puri, your analysis are very logical and convincing!

G Swaminathan
19-Oct-2011 12:23 PM

Comment The personal traits of Anna Hazare's team members was well known BEFORE Hazare acquired a National stature. Corruption is now present at every level including the personal level of the common man, and that, rather than anything else, could well be impossible to surmount.
Furthermore, some new studies are now beginning to re-examine the life and politics of MKG and there are/will be a definite re-think on a lot of issues, European or uninformed Indian adulation notwithstanding.

18-Oct-2011 04:27 AM

Comment Anna Hazare and team have admitted that that the JPB isn't the only solution in rooting out corruption but have called for reforms in other areas as well.It is completely premature and unfair to write off the JPB without even giving it a try.I do not recall any movement that has succeeded without its share of roadblocks (including discouraging write ups such as yours).The basic premise of
Hazare's movement is that leaders are elected to SERVE the PEOPLE which is a truer interpretation of the constitution than what is being practised today.If I were an honest, law abiding citizen,I see no reason to not support the introduction of reforms for an efficient system which the team is quite unselfishly trying to bring in.Let me add that I have personally nothing to lose if the movement does not succeed but for the sake of a better deal for most people,its recommendations are WORTH A TRY

17-Oct-2011 10:34 AM

Comment Dear Sir,

I eagerly read your articles here on this blog, because this is immense source of first hand or second hand information otherwise not available easily.

That Mr. Hazare worked in powerful hands is unbelievable. Why should he ? If this is the case, whom people of this country will believe in ? If this is the case, then why people will not give a cold shoulder to a genuin leader in future ?

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
17-Oct-2011 09:17 AM

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