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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Anna’s verdict on UPA: Four PMs and a clueless Sonia

If the top leadership of the UPA needed any further denting of its credibility, Anna Hazare delivered several knock-out statements in his interview to various TV channels on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, always suspected of lacking authority over his cabinet, gets the ultimate put-down from Anna. Speaking to Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN, he said the PM was a nice person, but “ineffective” because he was “remote-controlled” by senior ministers.

And who were these senior ministers? Anna’s answer: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal and Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Having taken a close look at how the government functioned when they dealt with him and his movement, the Gandhian crusader criticised all three ministers, who were part of the Joint Drafting Committee set up to draft the Lokpal Bill, of “behaving like prime ministers.” Asked to spell out what he meant, he merely said: “Everyone knows that they behave like Prime Ministers. Why do you want me to spell it out?”

Anna believes that Sonia and Manmohan listen too much to their courtiers and too little to the people. Shahbaz Khan/PTI
That makes for four PMs in all, including the one who the other three don’t listen to.

And what about Sonia Gandhi? Hazare was not willing to comment openly about her, except to say that she needed to learn from her late mother-in-law Indira Gandhi.

According to him, Sonia seemed to believe that if she had to run the government she needed her advisors (and possibly the ministers). “But there was Indira Gandhi. She became the Prime Minister again not on the basis of her party workers, but by working for the poor. They don’t seem to understand this.”

In short, Anna believes that Sonia and Manmohan listen too much to their courtiers and too little to the people.

The Home Minister, however, was a special target of Anna’s verbal attack. He accused Chidambaram of “masterminding” his arrest on 16 August, and said: “The government wanted to do a Ramdev on me. It had kept a plane ready to take me from Tihar jail to Mula Dam in Maharashtra. But Chidambaram’s strategy boomeranged on the government,” he said.

This is not the first time Anna has attacked Chidambaram for what he believes was his role in the run-up to his arrest and release in August. His release from Tihar jail culminated in the successful fast at Ramlila Maidan last month.

Calling the UPA government a bunch of “fools” soon after his return to his home base of Ralegan Siddhi, Anna had this to say on Chidambaram.

“This Chidambaram is a mischievous man. Chidambaram has lied many a time.”

But despite his tough words for Manmohan Singh and his ministers, Hazare was not any less contemptuous of the BJP, and LK Advani’s rath yatra against corruption. If they were so keen to work against corruption, why don’t they support the Jan Lokpal Bill and legislate Lokayuktas in their states?

Asked if he would support a front comprising non-corrupt people from non-BJP, non-Congress parties, he said: “I will support them but not lead them. Because that is the only solution to make a strong nation. The good people of all parties can come together and I will tell the people of the country to support them,” the Gandhian said.

However, Anna was evasive to a pointed question on why he had not raised his voice against the absence of a Lokayukta in Gujarat for the last seven years. “Why just Narendra Modi? We should think about the entire country. There should be a Lokayukta in every state,” he said.

And would he begin his protest again if Parliament’s standing committee does not agree to his demands on the Lokpal Bill, Hazare said: “Yes. We will protest but not against Parliament…We will see those who oppose it in the standing committee and we will start singing bhajans in front of the houses of those parliament members.”

Asked whether his movement was becoming too political he denied it. “No, not at all…there is no question of politics in this,” he said.

However, he did see political parties taking advantage of his movement. “That will happen…this happened many times in my life…When I protested during Congress government, BJP and Shiv Sena leaders were roaming around me…that government went and BJP-Shiv Sena came to power. Congress did a graduation and the latter got a doctorate (in corruption).”


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