Archive for August, 2011
Even Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi couldn’t have got that kind of reception that India’s latest craze Anna Hazre got when he stepped out of New Delhi’s notorious Tihar jail.
Thousands of men, women and children were out in streets , armed with no more than a tricolor flag and, perhaps, a bottle of water, but with never-before-exhibited enthusiasm usually reserved for one-day cricket matches involving India and, say old rivals, Pakistan.
Public concerns have never been individuals’ concern in this country. Corruption was at best a good topic for debate in schools and colleges and not a matter to show personal commitment.
But 74-year-old civil rights activist Anna Hazre has changed their attitude. Now, there is just one slogan on their lips–yes, we can put an end to corruption, if we step on to streets, rain or shine, to show our might.
But India’s ruling elite and their friends cannot read their message. The sleaze-driven political class even hopes the movement will fizzle out! They get even angry at these faceless Indians on the march.
“It’s a foolish crowd led by even a more foolish man,” they say in between abuses at Anna Hazre. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari’s trashing of Anna wasn’t a slip of tongue but a calculated strategy that went haywire–because our ministers and rulers misread India’s own version of Tahir Square.
Anna Hazre’s “second freedom struggle” is not just against corruption, as they see it, but against their understanding of the status quo.
For once, the ruling establishment was caught off-guard and all theories of “politics of development, caste and religious identifies” appeared to be eclipsed or rendered irrelevant by one single cause–sleaze.
For those among ruling class who love conspiracy theories and their Congress-friendly editors and journalists , a RSS hand in the public ferment seems the best way to trash the “mob frenzy” as they see it.
Even a CIA-hand is not a bad idea if the minorities can be somehow persuaded to look askance at the issue of corruption (as if that did not matter to them).
America-baiting too –tried by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav before the UP polls — falls in the same category. This time, the Congress’ biggest worry is the crucial next round of state polls in Uttar Pradesh early next year.
Arm-chair analysts, who don’t like their established theories of social behaviour to be upstaged by public discontent, continue to run down the Anna movement.
They are upset that their favourite, the Congress-led administration, is losing popular support. Others analysts who appear on TV channels every night fear that the opposition, particularly the BJP, could benefit eventually when the unbridled public dissatisfaction results in adverse electoral verdict. Left-leaning writers see a pro-right movement on the anvil with a Gandhian mask. They also see the upsurge as purely a middle-class movement (as if this class should not complain) though even daily wage earners like rickshaw pullers and three-wheeler drivers are among those holding up lit candles at India Gate.
But if the Hazre movement looks “unreasonable” with regard to creation of an all powerful ombudsman, no body is able to deny it has galvanized a nation’s consciousness on the issue of corruption. What will Team Anna do once Anna Hazre completes fasting for a fortnight? What will the government do to redeem its image? Will the government and Team Anna eventually reach a deal for a better lokpal bill? But for numerous Congress MPs and their well wishers, it’s time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saved their future. How? They say by agreeing to leave the chair in favour of younger Rahul Gandhi, Dr Singh can actually emerge their hero!
The exit of Dr Singh in the immediate future could save the Congress of many things, the least of which is having to defend an inept administration that singularly failed to prevent huge scams despite their “Mr Clean” at the helm.
Ultimately, there is no substitute to good politics and good governance. The Congress party is at crossroads, wondering what to do to turn the current disaster into another opportunity. It could do well to remember that, more than manipulative politics, the old schoolboy mantra could hold the key: If you do the best, the best will follow!
The sudden disclosure by the Congress that Sonia Gandhi has gone abroad for surgery has set off speculation that Rahul Gandhi might soon take charge of the party.
Though the party says she may be away for only two to three weeks, her decision to name her son in the “caretaker” group for the Congress is being read by many as a clear indication in this regard.
In a letter to her party, Sonia Gandhi said the four members of this group are Rahul, who is AICC general secretary, Defence Minister AK Antony, Janardhan Dwivedi, and her political advisor Ahmed Patel.
It is very significant that she included only Antony in the group.
She kept out other senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and, even AICC general secretary Divijay Singh, who has openly been championing for Rahul to become Prime Minister.
A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would be happy to step down for Rahul, but that the party had not discussed this possibility. As the PM put it, he had asked Rahul a number of times to join the government but he told him that he was “busy” party work.
It is no secret that, among Congress workers, particularly in UP where the elections are due early next year, the clamour is for Rahul to become Prime Minister so that it has a massive impact in that state.
Sonia’s decision to entrust the party work to a “caretaker” group is also interesting when Law Minister Salman Khurshid had only on Wednesday recalled a powerful one-line dialogue of popular Hindi film Deewar to stress how the Manmohan Singh government was doing everything in its power to rein in prices.
Injecting a dash of humour during a discussion on price rise in the Lok Sabha, Khurshid said: “There is a famous old [film] dialogue that you may have everything, par mere paas Ma hai [but I have my mother on my side]. That’s what we are saying…you may have everything, but we have Dr. Manmohan Singh.”
Cheered by his party colleagues, Khurshid made this remark while referring to measures being taken by the UPA government to reduce inflationary pressures in the next two months. Dr. Singh was present in the House.
But, given the crisis over the government’s image and all-round feeling that there is a sense of drift, a lot of changes could be on the cards before end of the year, say Congress leaders.
Normally, the Congress party and the government maintain strict silence over Sonia’s travels abroad and her medical treatment.
But, by chosing to disclose her travel abroad for treatment, the Congress president has herself giving a new meaning to the assignment for Rahul. Also, she may need a longer period for recovery and recuperation.
Rahul and his sister, Priyanka, are with her. Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi told the media, “Mrs Gandhi was recently diagnosed with a medical condition and upon the advice of her doctors, has travelled abroad for surgery.” During this time, he said a caretaker team has been appointed to “look after the affairs of the Congress party.”
Dwivedi did not reveal where Sonia has travelled to in America. But he did tell the media that the 64-year-old leader was recently diagnosed with a “medical condition and has been advised surgery.”
“On the advise of her doctors, she has travelled abroad and she is likely to be away for two-three weeks,” he said. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Have come to know through media about Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s surgery. I pray for her speedy recovery & good health.” (end)