Dharmendra Jore: Fast farcical
Is it the beginning of the end of brand Anna Hazare activism that shook the governments of the past?
Social activist Anna Hazare has returned to his native Ralegan Siddhi, after ending a seven-day hunger-strike in New Delhi. His supporters did not cry a big victory this time, blaming the media and people at large for not doing their bit to get Hazare the traction that he had got in his much-publicised hunger strike in the capital in 2011.
Much water has flown under the bridge ever since Hazare was accorded a ‘cult’ status by national and international media. His image has taken a severe beating following a series of events and flip-flops. A controversial break-up with Arvind Kejriwal, and the rest of the people who were behind his success in 2011, hit the activist hard. Kejriwal established himself as a political leader, bagging power twice in New Delhi.
Many others associated with Hazare’s agitation took up politics against his wish. This encouraged Hazare to attempt a revival of his anti-graft and nation-building movement, but he did not make any impact. The party that tacitly aided him against the UPA and benefited most, is now ruling the country and most of the states. The BJP will make another attempt at winning power next year amid a rising opposition.
Hazare has been quiet for the past four years, even as issues came to him on a platter in his own backyard. While other activists made the right noises, he was mum even on social issues. Hazare’s silence has now become a point to ponder, especially when he took up a series of issues that have been fought for successfully by the bare-footed farmers and opposition parties. When the government had already agreed to meet most of the demands, why did Hazare pick up issues that were already under consideration?
Despite name, fame and experience, why did Hazare go unnoticed by a larger section of the enlightened minds? Most anti-BJP political parties kept away from him, even when his agitation would help them in some way or the other. It seems urban Indians who raised slogans and took to streets in Hazare’s support in 2011 are not interested in his campaign any longer.
His diminishing influence is linked to alarming doubts over the octogenarian’s credibility. He is alleged to have been a pawn in the hands of respective Maharashtra CMs and political parties for targeting rivals within and outside the party in the past two decades. He is accused of being driven by the RSS-BJP ideology, the charge that was frequently made during his recent hunger-strike. He never responds to such allegations. He engages more in the rhetoric of a self-proclaimed guiding force instead of addressing specific questions. Mumbai journalists remember how agitated Hazare was when one of them asked the Gandhian about a graft-seeking worker of his organisation. One of those ‘corrupt’ workers was constantly seen with him during his March hunger-strike.
People ask where was Hazare when the Lokpal Act was tweaked by the BJP? The activist says he wrote 43 letters to PM Narendra Modi, which didn’t receive any response. Activists ask, then, why did he have to wait a couple of years to protest over the issue which is close to his heart? Did he wait for the support cast to build up the tempo, which ultimately did not happen?
Will he change?
We wish Hazare a quick recovery from the fast-induced health problems. We also wish he realizes as quickly that his ‘acche din’ may be over. He commands the respect of a section of the society which believes in his kind of approach in activism, but there are even more who have refused to side with him in 2018. Why did he get more brickbats than bouquets this time? Is it the beginning of the end of Hazare, who once sent shockwaves through corridors of power?
Criticism this sharp and ugly (on social media) should have a self-respecting Hazare introspect, even as he has threatened to return to Delhi after six months if his 11 demands remain unfulfilled. And yes, the people who jockey Hazare’s carefully cultivated persona should now show some mercy to the octogenarian who isn’t as physically fit as he was seven summers ago.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to email@example.com
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