Some people might remember when Anna Hazare was fasting at the Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi in August, he had, curiously, included the name of Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, apart from the PM and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, as one of the chosen interlocutors he could trust to negotiate with.
At that time, the UPA was in a state of panic and I was told by informed and unimpeachable sources in the All India Congress Committee that among the options the government had considered was to "airlift'' Hazare from New Delhi to Maharashtra and lodge him in the Ahmednagar or Khuldabad jail near Aurangabad.
But Chavan had put his foot down. Apart from not wishing to import the problem to the state, he also believed in consensus rather than confrontation. When I asked him to either confirm or deny the fact, Chavan had told me, without inflexion, "I was indeed consulted about flying him to Pune or Aurangabad. But I don't know about the jail.'' Chavan admitted to being worried about finding common ground soon, lest the situation became irretrievable. "It would be very difficult for us to capitulate any further; so where do we go from here?"
The government did capitulate, however - even if it did not fully give in to Hazare's demands. But now it seems in no mood to relent. So, I believe, it is not just New Delhi's cold weather that has brought Hazare to Bombay: Chavan's non-confrontationist attitude is a safe bet for Team Anna and they, perhaps, thought that they would be less at risk in Bombay than in New Delhi.
But that, somehow, does not seem a good enough reason to hold a fast in the capital of a state whose CM is among the most incorruptible heads of government that we have at present - and one who is driving many people crazy for just that reason: Chavan even refuses to meet people with vested interests.
There is, clearly, some deception happening and Team Anna's perfidy becomes more obvious when one realises that civic elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation are closing in at a time when the Shiv Sena is under fire for large-scale corruption during its decade-long civic rule in the metropolis. And Bal Thackeray makes no bones about opposing not just Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill but the institution of the ombudsman altogether.
I would agree with Thackeray that no version of the lokpal is going to end corruption in the country: it is an attitude of the mind that requires a change of heart. And so long as people are willing to give bribes there will be others to take them.
Yet Team Anna, who claims to represent the 1.2 billion people of the country (bar one: c'est moi! And a few others, perhaps, going by Bombay's cold response to Hazare so far), does not ask the people to stop giving bribes. They are stuck only on those who might take those bribes. As they are on lamming just the Congress for corruption. Not a peep out of them against the Shiv Sena. For fear that Thackeray will be less squeamish about underlining the team members' own alleged corruption or that they may be beaten up by Sena goons, perhaps?
With a non-confrontationist gentlemen like Chavan in the Congress and others like Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi who, I notice, do not personally react to nasty things said about them (as Hazare has been doing of late), I guess, the Congress is a softer target, particularly as it has also proved both inept and ham-handed in the past while handling Baba Ramdev's agitation and Hazare's own campaign in August.
But I am glad that apart from the Bombay High Court which, last week, put Team Anna in its place by pointing out that it did not quite represent all of India, there is at least one other person who minces no words and tells it like it is. Digvijaya Singh of the Congress tweeted on Sunday, 'Merry Christmas to Team Anna and also Happy Fund Raising in Mumbai. Shift to Mumbai from Delhi is because of FUND AND NOT THAND !'
Brrrr! Seems there is now a distinct nip in the air all around Team Anna!