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India’s “second freedom struggle” puts ruling class in a quandary?

August 19, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

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!

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