Politics, it would seem, is a great leveler. After a long period of maintaining a distance from the political process, indeed expressing disdain for it, Team Anna appears to have embraced the logic of fighting the system from within. It is only in the nature of hints at the moment, but anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has said that his band would give India a political alternative. But, with his characteristic opaqueness, Mr Hazare has said he will neither launch nor join a political party and that it is the people who will decide on the alternative. Of course, this is accompanied by woolly notions of holding a referendum to see what people want which is hardly feasible in our system unless replies on twitter constitute the voice of the people.
There is no doubt that this radical change of tack is prompted by the poor response to the latest round of fasts by Team Anna members. From the massive support witnessed during Mr Hazare's first fast in Delhi, there has been a steady decline in interest. And while there is nothing for the Congress to gloat about, Team Anna members have been their own worst enemies. From a strong anti-corruption plank which really touched a chord among people, they began tilting at windmills leaving people disillusioned. Mr Hazare came up with unacceptable suggestions like the need to flog people who drink and he seemed to endorse a public physical attack on a Union cabinet minister. All these eroded his appeal for the middle class. Intemperate language on the part of his team members also did nothing to enhance their appeal. It is a welcome step that the anti-corruption crusaders are contemplating a political party. If they are asking the political establishment to be accountable, then they themselves like Caesar's wife should have been beyond reproach. But as the movement dragged on, there were several skeletons in the cupboards of Team Anna members which came tumbling out.
As a political formation, they will be held accountable by the people and other constitutional bodies, something they should welcome. It will also defuse criticism from the Congress that Team Anna wants rights without responsibilities. It ought to fight elections to secure a place in legislative bodies from where its members can press for a comprehensive Lokpal bill. The sort of street corner politics and finger-pointing that Team Anna has been indulging in has almost created sympathy for the Congress. Corruption is a very major issue which affects us all and is a drag on our economy. For the industrialist to the below-poverty-line person seeking State benefits, corruption is an endemic part of our lives. So, a formation which can press to tackle it is welcome. This was Team Anna's core competence. It should return to it once it enters the political arena, this time armed with the democratic endorsement of the people in whose name it has spoken so far.