THIS is not to say that Anna, his colleagues, and the Jan Lokpal Bill that he is promoting cannot or should not be criticised, but the manner in which theGrand Old Party (GOP) and the government led by it have tried to malign the movement is disgraceful.
After party spokesman Manish Tewari earned instant notoriety by accusing activist Anna of being corrupt from tip to toe, his colleague Rashid Alvi made the outrageous statement that the mass movement the Gandhian is leading is propped by the Americans. This attracted US Senator John McCain’s comment. “The US does not involve itself in what is taking place in the world’s largest democracy and neither it has intention,” McCain told a press conference. In other words, by his loose talk Alvi has not only made himself a laughing stock but also demeaned the people of his own country.
He derived the conspiracy theory from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in the Parliament. Briefing both Houses about Anna’s arrest, Singh had said, “We are emerging as one of the important players on the world stage. There are many forces that would not like to see India realise its true place in the comity of nations. We must not play into their hands.” As a true Congress leader, Alvi went on to conjure up his theory: “Anna is alone. He has no organisation. Then how did this movement start and grow? Who are these people spreading the word on internet and telephones; the way video message was recorded prior to arrest.” Further, “the US had never spoken about any movement in India. This is the first time that it did. We show the path of democracy to others, what was the need for the US to say it. This has created suspicion.” And suspicion proves the obnoxious US hand. QED.
Even by the mendacious standards of the Congress, Alvi’s rants were so idiotic that the GOP had to wash its hands off them. So, party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said, “I can’t comment… Alvi is not here. I do not want to speak on his behalf… Sometimes, some human errors take place.” One hopes that Alvi does not call her a CIA agent for clearing the role of Washington in the Anna movement!
Then there was the conspiracy theory that the RSS and the BJP were behind the movement. The charge was so outlandish that Anna himself said that those saying this should be sent to a mental hospital. The charge was not only bizarre but also stupid on two counts. First, Anna’s confidantes include Prashant Bhushan and Swami Agnivesh. The two worthies have serious differences with the Sangh Parivar. Second, it was idiotic on the part of the ruling party to link such a successful and widespread movement with the principal Opposition party.
Another shenanigan was to call the widespread agitation as an outburst of middle class anger. It is difficult to fathom as to what extent this theory is the result of wishful thinking. A large number of intellectuals (who broadly support the Congress position on various issues) are inveterately opposed to middle class ideals, values, and aspirations. In their scheme of things, there are primarily two kinds of people in the country—the middle class and the ‘real’ India. They scoff at anything that is the middle class, be it the thrift, enterprise, or popular cinema. Concomitantly, they idolise the pathologies of ‘real’ India, especially its poverty. As in their scheme of things, middle class is frivolous and inconsequential, so is the Anna movement.
There are two big problems with this neat categorisation and impudent conclusion. First, anybody who trusts their eyes and ears and has not sacrificed commonsense at the altar of Leftwing intellectualism knows that the Lokpal stir cuts across classes, creeds, regions, and castes. Second, it is a historically proven fact that the middle class is the most revolutionary class in any country at any point of time. It was the middle class which successfully fought against the British for Independence, while the feudal forces lost in 1857. It was the middle class that propelled the French, American, and Russian Revolutions.
Another set of people who have come to the aid of the ruling party are Dalit activists and intellectuals. Hyderabad-based author Kancha Ilaiah said, “The Anna movement is an anti-social justice, Manuvadi movement. The Dalits, tribals, OBCs and minorities have nothing to do with it. We oppose it.” Till the writing of these lines, no survey or study was done to ascertain the caste or faith of Anna’s supporters. Perhaps Ilaiah had the benefit of some divine revelation to know the background of participants!
Yet another wacky theory doing the rounds was that the mass stir was a media creation. When it focuses on the antics of some dumb doll, the stunts of some publicity hungry model, or the romantic liaisons of some star cricketer, it is accused of ‘trivialization’; when it bring important topics like Lokpal into limelight, it is said to be taking sides. The fact is that the media is just reporting what is happening.
One more Congress lie was exposed when newspapers reported on August 21 that Anna was not an Army deserted, as alleged by Tewari.
The Congress not only unleashed its dirty tricks department against Anna and his team but also sought—and got—the assistance of friendly activists. What else is the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) for? So, NAC member Aruna Roy condemned the fasting Gandhian as “ill-advised”. It is unfortunate that no commentator or news anchor questioned Roy’s credentials. She is obviously a crony of Sonia Gandhi, who practically presides over the most corrupt regime in the history of Independent India. It is a travesty of public discourse that such a person pontificates about ways and means to promote transparency and honesty in public life. It is like asking Heidegger, the philosopher who supported the Third Reich, to curb anti-Semitism of the Nazis.
Not to be left behind is another NAC grandee, Harsh Mander. He wrote in an article, “Their [the Anna brigade’s] distrust of Parliament is hazardous and also unjustified by past experience of free India.” This from a Maoist sympathiser!
Then there is author and activist Arundhati Roy whose hatred for development is of pathological proportions. Slamming the Anna movement, she wrote in a newspaper article, “The props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving… signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not ‘true Indians’.”
Congress leaders and their sympathetic intellectuals wax eloquent about the undermining of democratic institutions, particularly Parliament. They also question the role of the unelected Anna brigade. It is unalloyed sanctimoniousness: the party which has done the most to weaken democracy and which has thrust the anti-development NAC on the nation has the temerity to talk about the sanctity of democracy. Seldom is mendacity so pompous.
The deer-in-the-headlights syndrome has occasioned more crookedness on the part of the Congress. It hopes that its wiles and guiles would help it survive the crisis. It has clever politicians; it enjoys the support of tame intellectuals. Only time will tell whether or not its optimism is well-founded.