Yeh Anna nahi, Aandhi Hai
Yeh aaj ka Gandhi hai
This SMS has been doing the rounds lately.
It started from a man living in a small village in Maharashtra. Delhi gave it shape. And now the fire is spreading from Patna to Bangalore, Mumbai to New York.
Why is the common man, the corporate type, the glib English speaking person, a housewife on the street? The simple reason is – everyone is tired of corruption and bribery. From getting your telephone line fixed to getting your passport made, chai-paani is mostly involved. Woe befall you if try buying a house or start your own little business and decide you don’t want to pay a bribe or pay some part of the money in black. So the anger of the middle classes has erupted, having been pushed to the wall for too long.
But movements like these don’t take such organic forms, spread across the country and shake people out of a stupor. For the hardened middle class, immovable by such drama, it’s perceived as just another field day for television news to go crazy. They have seen it before during the Jessica Lal case, the Aarushi case, the cash-for-votes and other scams, the nithari case. The media throws up heroes and villans everyday to sell their stories. To be seen today and forgotten tomorrow. And if it is really sensational then becoming dinner table and party conversation.
But this movement, it’s different. Never have the dinner table conversationalists, the officer goers taken to the streets. And that is the biggest change. But in my opinion, the movement has been successful because it is, crucially, not backed by caste, religion, region or political motivation. It was people like us who were angry and decided to do something, people who cared deeply about the society. And importantly, it was started by people with both urban, semi-urban and rural connect.
And that’s where, I think, it scored the points.
Since this morning, however, I have been a bit worried. As the day is unfolding, it has become quite clear that the way the Congress government has handled the ‘situation’, it will have great difficulty in winning the next general elections. A government, which was on track to rule the country for another five years is faltering. A weak opposition and no strong leader helped its cause. The right and former partners – the left, were waiting for a chance to strike back, find that window of opportunity to undermine the Congress, to change that public opinion.
Inflation and corruption were the two main issues on which the government has been attacked. The government policies to control inflation weren’t successful but a healthy 9% growth rate and quick recovery from recession, shut up the people. However, Kalmadi, Raja and company’s dirty linen did manage to get washed in the public, forcing the government to put these individuals behind bars. And the Prime Minister said that the government was cleaning its own backyard. But they were only the fall guys in the entire chain of corrupt ministers, officials and bureaucrats. The masses have felt betrayed but as usual decided to endure what could not be cured. And hence when this movement started, it came as a breath of fresh air, or rather, the air of a revolution. The media finally did something right, by whipping up a frenzy, at the right time.
But now, alarmingly, the opposition has realized how badly the government has managed this movement. And it has taken its chance. Like any opposition, they have said that Anna Hazare should be released, the Prime Minister should give a statement in the Parliament and has decided to pledge support for the movement. By supporting the movement they may have unwittingly helped the government.
The support of the right-wing RSS will lead to the alienation of religious minorities, liberal left wingers, and the backward classes. Support of the Left would mean alienation of the cow-belters, and the hard core righties. This division and factionalism runs deep in the society. People vote those into power who speak their language, belong to their caste, region and religion. And they become pawns in the political games, a mere vote bank. A movement which was free from this has become a political game, not just for the Congress but also the opposition.
This is my main worry. Will we, the people, let politics and factionalism ruin a chance to actually change something?