From the time he began his latest fast, we have been riveted by his fluctuating blood pressure, pulse and temperature. Now we notice the same fluctuations in the strategy on how to push through the contentious Jan Lokpal Bill — an article of faith with Anna Hazare and his team.
The fast is now off and the proposed dharna outside Congress president Sonia Gandhi's house and the plan to gherao MPs has gone the same way. After first saying that people must prepare to court arrest and giving a few guidelines on this, Mr Hazare has now set aside the jail bharo movement. Instead, he has assured people that he would campaign in all five poll-bound states indicating that the movement which began with considerable support as one against corruption in public life has become a battle against the ruling Congress party.
This not-so-subtle shift was seen when Team Anna publicly campaigned in the Hisar by-election against the Congress candidate. Many may question the sudden decision by Mr Hazare to call off his fast. After all, that he was in poor health, the reason given for this, was not in doubt when he went on this protest.
The more unkind among people may attribute this to the fact that unlike the first round in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan in August, this time around the response was lukewarm in both Delhi and Mumbai. Far from lakhs, the maximum reported crowds did not exceed a few thousands. This cannot have been lost on the strategists surrounding Anna Hazare who have been chopping and changing their statements on whether or not he would continue with his fast almost as soon as he began it.
The government has also wrested back some of the initiative by getting the Lokpal Bill through the Lok Sabha and moving it to the Rajya Sabha. This would explain why some of the key Team Anna members were almost plaintive in their exhortation to people to continue supporting the movement. This is a far cry from August where crowds milled around the former armyman from Ralegan Siddhi wearing caps bearing the legend 'I am Anna'.
Clearly, the movement's leaders have overplayed their hand. This is a shame because there is always a need to keep up pressure on the government to devise ways and means to clean up corruption in public life, something which affects and exercises everyone, especially the poor who suffer the most from it. Team Anna will now work out a new strategy. This should be welcomed, providing it is clear whether this is a purely political battle or that on the larger issue of probity in public life. Rigidity on either side is not a virtue, but such quicksilver fluctuations tend to leave the public more dizzy than determined to fight the good fight.