AFTER LAB TEST, THE COUP!

Backed by the RSS, Sangh Parivar and corporates, riding on popular angst against scams, the Anna campaign was a sinister plot to destablise Indian democracy. Now, its all out in the open. Hardnews anticipated correctly and reported on the dot on the RSS linkages with the movement. See our August and September cover stories (see links below).

Sanjay Kapoor Delhi               

There was little godliness or piety or great vision wafting out from Anna Hazare’sDelhiprotest site, Ramlila Ground. Aggressive young men wearing the Anna ‘Gandhitopi’ displayed utter ease and felicity in hurling choicest abuses at the Congress leadership. Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul, Manmohan Singh and Kapil Sibal were the favourite targets of abuse for this large congregation of spiteful anti-corruption supporters. Later, Anna Hazare seemed to retract from the vicious abusive language he and his team had encouraged by taking a more modest stance in his letter to the prime minister. 

The 12-day fast was not just for fighting the corrupt and unilaterally pushing the Jan Lokpal Bill, it was also a well-planned attack of the Sangh Parivar and its front organisations to delegitimise the Congress leadership as infirm and clueless, and precipitate the fall of UPA government before it is able to complete its term. Also, to block the probe on the involvement of RSS leaders in acts of terror, bomb blasts and murder, and scuttle the inevitable process of justice in Gujarat — involving the carnage and fake encounters. This movement against venality was meant to politically hurt Sonia Gandhi and, by implication, the ambitions of her son, Rahul, who many believe would become the next prime minister of a Congress government— when the inevitable change at the top takes place. 

Hazare’s campaign endeavoured to do something more significant: create a new iconography of the ‘freedom struggle’ by building its own mahatma, and degrading and devaluing the Congress party’s association with India’s independence and the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. With an organised financial, PR and professional infrastructure, the campaign had showcased the clone of a fasting Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare, the tricolour, patriotic filmy songs and the “second freedom struggle”. This was choreographed by its event managers for TV channels with remarkable success. 

The movement struck a ready chord with the angry urban masses who had been disgusted by the rash of big corruption scandals that took place under the UPA regime. These were no ordinary scams. The telecom scandal was estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to involve Rs 1.75 lakh crore. There was the loot in the Commonwealth Games (CWG), where Congress MPs were caught with their hands on the till. And then, there was heist in the fertiliser sector, Air India, petroleum and so on. 

The list seemed to grow with every passing day. Incidentally, most of the exposes came from within the government system — CAG. Action, too, followed against the accused in telecom and CWG scams, but the impression was buttressed repeatedly that the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh was helpless against the predators that control his party.  

These corruption scandals reinforced the general belief that people in high places were bilking the system and parking their black money abroad. Ordinary people could stitch together a simple worldview of how the ‘ruling class’ of politicians was getting rich at their expense. The ire of the angry masses was directed at an archetypal Congress politician who got fat, corrupt and rich without
breaking a sweat. 

Incidentally, the anti-corruption campaign was reportedly crafted in Bangalore at the Art of Living ashram under the leadership of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the spiritual mascot of the Times Group, which was the media vanguard of the movement. Arvind Kejriwal, Swami Ramdev, and others like Sangh ideologues Govindacharya, Gurumurthy and former IB chief Ajit Doval, were part of this strategy. Informed sources told Hardnews that senior members of the Sangh Parivar were integral to putting different pieces of this movement in place.

Sources allege that the disgraced BS Yeddyurappa, too, provided all help to this enterprise as long as there was no agitation directed at him or the members of his corrupt cabinet. It is indeed intriguing that the anti-corruption crusaders refused to utter a word against Yeddyurappa’s monumental corruption. Not one poster against him or BJP’s corruption was put up in this Hazare campaign. Even when he was eased out as the chief minister of Karnataka with great difficulty by the compromised central BJP leadership, which had reportedly benefited from the corruptBellarybrothers, there was no attempt to nail those who were responsible for the relentless multibillion pillage of mines by the mining mafia. 

How come the BJP has come out squeaky clean from this campaign, while all the dirt has stuck on the Congress? 

Justice Santosh Hegde’s report is a fantastic piece of investigation into the manner in which private miners had built huge fortunes by illegally mining precious minerals and sneaking them out to foreign clients. The Lokayukta report shows how private companies — not only Bellary brothers — had made the bribing of government servants, politicians, NGOs and media houses a mutually beneficial enterprise. Interestingly, funding to media houses and NGOs gave immunity to corporate houses, and they continued to carry on with their merry money making ways. Only the government and political class were targeted for attack by anti-corruption crusaders. Even the Jan Lokpal Bill turns deaf and blind on corruption within corporates, the media and private NGOs. 

A similar strategy was adopted by India Against Corruption (IAC) in Delhi. The breath of this campaign is against the government and political class. It tries to make those who are democratically elected, subservient to the Lokpal. Parliament, too, does not merit any importance in their scheme of things. In fact, a terribly simplistic Hazare gave more importance to an unelected gram sabha than Parliament, and hinted many times at the elected “traitors” who “sold” the nation. Indeed, his language and posturing, and that of his close aides, were not always Gandhian. 

This private corporate sector perspective to an anti-corruption movement got endorsement from industry hands. Event managers, PR honchos, industrialists, they all pitched in. A top Bollywood actor close to Arvind Kejriwal apparently gave the idea that MPs should be gheraoed. Millionnaire film stars and fashion models joined in. The obscenely rich Bollywood film industry, stashed with underworld and black money (even Bal Thackeray said it), splashed their love for Anna. FICCI and other chambers of commerce were ecstatic with the ‘wave’ and endorsed it with their hands and feet, and possibly purses. Predictably, questions were never asked about how to ensure probity in India’s corporate sector. 

Despite many reports, a big chunk of India’s corporate sector is corrupt, amoral, and does not follow corporate governance. The infamous Radia tapes gave ample proof of how big companies really go about doing business. Companies like the Tatas, Reliance telecom, Unitech and others have displayed little regard for morality when they pressure government and political parties to bend rules to help them maximise profit. The threat to public life is more from the unregulated private sector than from the government. Besides, with the Anna campaign, the 2G scam etc, involving top guns of the corporate sector, were all but forgotten. 

What was also forgotten was the meaning of government in a democracy, and how it drew legitimacy from the people’s mandate. Cleverly, the government was painted as the devil, whereas ideally, it is a countervailing force to private profit. All these issues were deliberately ignored by a movement with tunnel vision, which was clearly funded by sections of a private sector that finds politics, democracy and the government dispensable. 

Understandably, when thecrowds converged at Ramlila Ground, those that faced the brunt of the attack were politicians, specifically from Congress. Many commentators sensed its fascist character and demanded from the government not to succumb to this orchestrated campaign. Seemingly, the government lost its nerve. Scams have taken away the moral strength of UPA II. Congress, which gets activated only during elections, was out on a limb, unsure as to how it should react. Absence of Sonia Gandhi due to her ill health did not help matters. In contrast, her presence during the earlier carnival at Jantar Mantar in April had shown a more sophisticated response from the government. 

More than the manifest political paralysis, what hurt the UPA regime was the manner in which their weakness was reiterated and reinforced. They kept on retreating and giving larger political space to the self-mandated ‘civil society’ activists, whose dubious credentials have been questioned by many civil society and people’s movement organisations (See Hardnews, August 1, 2011). 

Worse, they did not learn from past lessons, in such rapid succession, first in April, and later, when Ramdev (a multimillionaire with shady enterprises, currently under investigation) launched his anti-black-money fast. The UPA government could not build up an adequate political response. Neither did they reach out to like-minded parties — there are very few left as it is — nor activate their own cadres. They squandered valuable time trying to score brownie points while drafting the bill. While keeping the government engaged, the agitators were busy building their support and preparing for the August protest — with organised backing by the RSS, corporates and sections within the corporate media.  

Hence, when Hazare decided to go on fast on August 16, the government panicked. So scared was the prime minister that he chose to dwell on the meaninglessness of a fast in his Independence Day speech. When Hazare did not relent, the police put him in Tihar Jail. This single act gave him a halo of martyrdom and showed him as standing up to a brutal, undemocratic State. He was pampered so much in jail that he refused to leave. Besides, which prisoner has the right to be videographed, his head massaged by a Art of Living baba, and hold meetings with his team? How many political activists will get that privilege? 

The Ramlila Ground became the stage for all kind of seditious speeches. Former law minister Shanti Bhushan literally “ordered” that their bill should be passed by August 30. All agreements were violated. Without fear of any police action, the Gandhian flexed his muscles and told his followers to surround the houses of MPs if they do not support their Jan Lokpal Bill. Even the prime minister’s house was to be surrounded. A belligerent Team Anna openly threatened to unleash mob power if their wishes were not fulfilled. (“Not 15, get 25,000 outside every MP’s house,” threatened Hazare.) Parliament was told to rush through the bill without allowing the standing committee to access diverse opinions. This was nothing but an extra-constitutional fascist putsch riding on people’s angst, mob power and the well-oiled Sangh machine. 

Going by the celebrations sparked off after the fast, it is clear that this Team Anna (now, split vertically) and its patrons of the Sangh Parivar, who have emerged out of the shadows to take credit for the grand show, are unlikely to sit quietly. Demand for the Jan Lokpal is just a lab test to emasculate a legally elected government. After Hazare is well fed, he would be ready to challenge the government again in perhaps two months’ time. And this time, the movement would be bigger and they would not demand just a Lokpal — but the PM’s head. Also, perhaps, that of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

Is Congress ready for the challenge?

Click links for more 

No Freedom struggle, This
Anna Whistling in the Dark? 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: SEPTEMBER 2011

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