The much-publicised fast by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare yesterday was the perfect example of how the ruling Congress-led UPA and the anti-corruption crusade have missed a point in feeling the pulse of the people. Hazare's fast is no longer a marketing campaign. That got over in August when the fortnight-long fast at Ramlila Maidan was accompanied by rhetoric from both sides.
Now, if Hazare and the activists that support his movement want to take the crusade forward, they'll have to come up with pragmatic solutions to the problems they are fighting against. Mere sloganeering against a political party or against the system will not yield any results -- something that the Anna campaign has degenerated into.
Hazare faces two choices now, and both are tough. One, if he wants any reasonable amount of change that he seeks, he'd have to necessarily be part of the political process that he has avoided so far; and two, he and his team would have to come up with valid policy proposals that the government and the people could support without the fear of creating an all-pervasive, non-accountable bureaucrat in the form of a Jan Lok Pal.
The Congress, on the other hand, has done bare minimum in reaching out to Hazare and his team, and has instead indulged in badmouthing him and his supporters. And therein lies the trouble. Both the parties in the negotiation process are unwilling to come to the table and arrive at a suitable consensus.
Rhetoric alone cannot be policy. Hazare has got to realise that just by creating another constitutional office cannot be panacea for corruption in India, a malaise so deep-rooted that it would possibly take an overhaul in just about every sphere of life -- justice delivery system, education, law and order maintenance, the bureaucracy, etc. That is the real, and bigger, challenge. There is a sense that both sides are too lazy to acknowledge that. Worse, they could be in denial.