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Saturday, 10 March 2012

Anna Hazare a Hindutva Project?

If the results of the five state assembly elections have brought a feeling of despondency to the ruling Congress party, the public’s verdict this week should also be making social activist Anna Hazare and his team uncomfortable.

The anti-corruption movement launched by the veteran activist last year shook the political establishment, and in the heat of the moment it was widely assumed that any political party with even the slightest taint of graft would bite the dust at the polls. Team Anna also suggested that parties that had opposed a strong Ombudsman (Lokpal) Bill in the parliament would face the wrath of the people, and they hit the campaign trail to ensure that this would be the case.

But the election results have instead not just highlighted the limits of their particular stripe of activism, but placed a question mark over the motivations of such agitations generally.

The Samajwadi Party (SP), swept to power in Uttar Pradesh, has been critical of the Anna Hazare movement, and was instrumental in blocking the introduction of the Ombudsman Bill in the upper house of parliament. But the SP has also been hit by numerous allegations of corruption, including an SP candidate who was jailed.

The results in the neighboring state of Uttrakhand were also telling. This was the only state that was pressured by the anti-corruption movement to pass the Anna Hazare version of the Ombudsman Bill. Anti-corruption crusaders spent much time there during the election trying to mobilize support for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its chief minister for bringing the landmark legislation. But B.C. Khanduri not only lost his seat, but saw his party come in second to the Congress.

Even in Punjab, where the BJP allied with a bigger regional partner to retain power, it lost several seats in the urban constituencies that were the focus of the Hazare campaign. The BJP, which thrives on the urban vote, couldn’t take advantage of the anti-corruption campaign, and ceded ground to its rival the Congress, which was the target of the whole Anna movement.

The attempted mobilization over the issue of corruption seemed aimed more at targeting the Congress, rather than corruption. Indeed, newspapers and magazines have written extensively about how anti-corruption activists were given active support by local BJP and other Hindutva organizations in the elections. English weekly Open even ran a cover story a couple of weeks back describing Team Anna as the “BJP’s Team B.”

This shouldn’t be surprising – key players in the anti-corruption movement, including Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, openly hobnobbed with the BJP and other rightists. These elections have therefore exposed the hypocrisy of the anti-corruption crusaders and brought into the open the hidden agenda behind the agitation.

The anti-corruption brigade are increasingly looking like part of a Hindutva project motivated not by a good cause, but by a desire to capture power in New Delhi by displacing the Congress party.

Anna Hazare had no role to play in UP elections: Hegde

Key Team Anna member Justice N Santosh Hegde admitted today corruption and governance issues did not determine the outcome of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections but said the anti-graft sentiment certainly worked in Goa.
Asked if Team Anna's campaign in Uttar Pradesh had an impact on polls, Hegde said: "There is no evidence to that effect. If corruption was an issue, I don't think SP (Samajwadi party) would have got such a huge margin".

A former Supreme Court Judge, he expressed the view that "governance does not seem to be an issue at all (in Uttar Pradesh", indicating that the Mulayam Singh Yadav won the polls for reasons other than issues of corruption and governance.

"They (people) have seen SP for ten years. SP never gave a good government", he said, also referring to media reports of some "law and order problems" immediately after SP swept to power.

But he asserted that anti-corruption mood certainly worked in Goa, where BJP won the polls, adding, the outgoing Congress government had allegedly indulged in "heavy corruption".
In addition, BJP played its card very well by giving tickets to different communities.

Hegde, however, said the Team Anna movement would gather momentum going forward. "Anna (Hazare) has decided to to tour all over India". Even though there are no elections round the corner, it would certainly have a tremendous effect on governing parties,he said.

"But for the Anna movement, corruption would not have been that big an issue. Peoples' reaction to Anna's movement had a significant effect on public mind", the former Karnataka Lokayukta said.

He said the issue (fight against) of corruption –whether through Anna or general perception -- has gained a lot of support and "it has harmed many people who are presumed to be corrupt".

Hegde expressed the view that if B C Khanduri was not projected
as chief ministerial candidate,BJP would have been "wiped out" in Uttarkhand. BJP made a "tactical error" by not replacing his predecessor Ramesh Pokhriyal, who was perceived as "very, very corrupt", much earlier

Team Anna’s anti-graft movement had an impact

Anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare’s team, which conducted a low-key campaign in the assembly elections in five states, but kept its focus on Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, appeared satisfied with Tuesday’s election results. The jury was out among the political parties and analysts whether team Anna’s campaign had any impact on the election results, and the reactions were on expected lines.

The Congress dismissed it as a non-issue, but the BJP said anti-graft campaigns of Hazare and Baba Ramdev were definite factors behind high polling percentage and the poor Congress showing.

“Given the limited options available to voters, the results show that voters chose lesser evils in all the five states,” said key team Anna member, Prashant Bhushan.

Asked about the unprecedented victory of Samajwadi Party in UP, he said :“BSP paid the price of running a corrupt government and the Congress faced the music for not taking effective anti-corruption measures at the national level.”

Another team Anna member, Kiran Bedi linked the poor Congress showing to the lokpal bill. “Congress appeared to be suffering because it was blatantly against  an effective Lokpal bill. And still is! Unless it changes stance,” Bedi tweeted.

Team Anna was willing to accept that its almost open support for Uttarakhand chief minister BC Khanduri helped the BJP to come back into the fight from a hopeless situation a few months back.

From an open anti-Congress campaign in the Hisar (Haryana) Lok Sabha byelection in last October to an indirect campaign this time, team Anna changed its tactics this time following criticism that the anti-graft movement was being given a political colour.

Team Anna appears set to take it battle with the Congress and and its allies to 2014.

Anna Hazare, team to meet in Delhi

NEW DELHI: Veteran social activist Anna Hazare will attend a core committee meeting of Team Anna on Monday to discuss the future strategy of his fight against corruption.
" We will decide the strategy for our fight against corruption, basically how to carry it forward now. We will discuss these issues and there will be two more meetings, after everything is finalized. I would go out again in the entire country and will start another fight against corruption," Hazare told media.

Earlier on February 24, he had threatened to start another movement for the passage of a strong ombudsman bill to combat graft in the country, before the national polls, which are scheduled to take place in 2014.

Hazare has been at loggerheads with the government over the Ombudsman Bill, for which the Gandhian activist went on hunger strikes in April, August and December last year.

Meanwhile, commenting on the exit polls conducted by three major television channels, in which they claimed that the regional Samajwadi Party would emerge as the winner in Uttar Pradesh, Hazare said the decision of the people must be respected.

See, this is a democracy. We have to accept the decision of the public. But, whoever comes has to think about the future of the country," Hazare added.