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Shrewd state gives IAC no advantage
Sayli Udas Mankikar, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, December 30, 2011
First Published: 01:54 IST(30/12/2011)
Last Updated: 01:55 IST(30/12/2011)

Keeping in mind that Anna Hazare's agitation at the Ramlila ground in Delhi got a boost because of his arrest, the state played a safe but shrewd game by ensuring that it did not get into a confrontation with the social activist or his followers.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan's government handled the situation tactfully, denying Team Anna any opportunity to garner sympathy. At the same time, the state maintained cordial relations with him through direct communication.

Chavan spoke to Anna on two occasions: Once on day one, requesting him to end his fast considering his health, and the second time after he broke his fast. "There was no point agitating when the Parliament was discussing the bill. I called him and requested him not to go on hunger strike," Chavan said in Pune on Thursday.

Home minister RR Patil did not communicate with him directly; instead he praised the team through the media for not causing law-and-order situations.

The state remained cordial and non-confrontational through the entire episode, though it put Team Anna on the backfoot right at the beginning by denying permission to conduct the rally at Azad Maidan, a centrally located ground, citing security issues. The option for Team Anna was the not-easily-accessible and out-of-the-way Bandra-Kurla Complex grounds.

Then, the state asked India Against Corruption to cough up the commercial rate for staging a protest as it is not a registered charitable trust or NGO. Later, the government guided IAC to book the ground in the name of an NGO so they could get concession.

Though Patil said providing security to a huge crowd at Azad Maidan for three days would be impossible, he allocated more than 2,500 personnel to the venue. Sources said the police had strict instructions to not use force on the protesters.

"The state did not over-react and allowed the events to flow naturally. It did not go out of its way and give undue importance to the movement as compared to the central government, which reacted hastily and took a position. The state's more careful and mature approach contributed to the fizzling out of the agitation," said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar.


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