In a classic reversal of roles, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who tried last year to hitch his stars to the Anna Hazare anti-corruption bandwagon, is today throwing the movement a much-needed lifeline. It was his presence at Jantar Mantar on Friday that brought in crowds at the venue where Team Anna members are on a fast. The anti-corruption crusader from Ralegaon Siddhi could hardly contain his joy when the godman came to the venue, swelling the numbers with his own followers, and declared his support for Anna. Significantly, he did not mention the others in the team. It is unfortunate that what began as a promising anti-corruption movement led by civil society activists today has become a show of strength akin to political rallies.
Leading Team Anna member Kiran Bedi’s call to women to come out in numbers too shows that the issue of corruption has taken a backseat to filling the venue with people, irrespective of their convictions. Bringing in Ramdev is akin to inviting a Bollywood star, it is quite possible that one of the top actors could have attracted more people. The ordinary man most hit by corruption is today hardly visible at the venues where the activists have been going on their constant fasts. The whole focus of the movement too has been dissipated, one day it is the Lokpal Bill, the other day it targets 15 ministers, the next it attacks Pranab Mukherjee. This means that it is neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring to most people. This explains why people are fast losing interest in it emboldening the ruling party spokesperson to take potshots at the movement with regularity.
Anna’s statements that he will go around in the next election telling people whom to vote for also suggests that the movement has become politicised. After all, must we assume that the candidates endorsed by Anna are squeaky clean and that others are tainted? The whole premise of the movement, that change can be forced through street corner activism, is also flawed. Had the team entered into a reasoned debate with the political establishment, it would have carried so much more credibility. This is not to suggest that the ruling party or indeed other politicians are in the right. But the team’s antics have let them off the hook rather than hold them accountable. This is the tragedy of the movement. It brought corruption to the centre-stage and then frittered away the advantage. This is perhaps the singular disservice that Team Anna has done to public life. The common man in whose name it speaks will not thank it for this.