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HindustanTimes Mon,20 Oct 2014
Anna has lost the Ramlila magic
Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times
December 17, 2013
First Published: 20:47 IST(17/12/2013)
Last Updated: 20:50 IST(17/12/2013)

Even as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) dilly-dallies over the formation of a new government in New Delhi, it is clear Anna Hazare’s association with his so-called `protégé’  Arvind Kejriwal was over long before the septuagenarian social activist asked AAP leader Gopal Rai to leave Ralegan Siddhi last week after he had a war of words with former Army chief General (retd) VK Singh, who has clearly emerged as the new flavour of the season for Hazare.

But this is par for the course as far as Hazare is concerned. When he was roped in to sit on a fast first at Jantar Mantar and then at Ramlila Maidan in 2011, I had said that he was clearly surrounded by people who were allegedly using him for their own ends. The Anna movement grew big only because of the mishandling of the situation by the UPA government at the Centre. Even then friends of Hazare’s had told me that he was virtually a prisoner of those running the movement, even after his release from Tihar Central Jail.

In fact, one of these friends had had to speak to Hazare through the toilet window of the jail. I am told that even then he had made a desperate appeal for rescue, convinced that the leaders of the movement were bent upon taking his life through a fast unto death. He knew he was a plaything in the hands of the Kejriwal gang and wanted some quick intervention from someone he could trust. Hence the then union minister, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, was pressed to mediate, in a language that others could not understand, between Hazare and the government. Speaking to Hazare in his own tongue was part of the deal struck at the bathroom window.

But according to Raju Parulekar, Hazare’s then personal blogger, who at the time had an inside view of the movement, it was more than just fear for his life that caused the rift between Hazare and Kejriwal and it is not surprising that the surfacing of a recent video reveals that money had not a little to do with it. The spoils of war —  Hazare wanted a bigger share, according to Parulekar, for, after all, his fair name drew in the funds — got in their way. While Kejriwal is keeping up the pretence of all being well between them, if only he had taken the trouble to study Hazare’s mood swings he would have realised long ago that Anna always flits from one group to another group and has, therefore, lost much of his support over the years.

Clearly, now Hazare thinks the world of General (retd) VK Singh perhaps because they seem to be two of a kind — with similar flip-flops and inability to decide which side they are really on. But I am sure while General (retd) Singh will eventually make up his mind and stick to his guns, he too will one day find himself out of favour with Hazare when a new caucus eventually takes over. And that might happen sooner than later given his public avowal of faith in Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s new-found ability to have the lokpal Bill passed in Parliament.

But even Rahul should beware. For, as Parulekar says, “I, too, was utterly shocked when Anna did not stand by me. I was uploading only what he had wanted to write and cleared personally. It did not take more than a day for my opium effect (about Anna and the movement) to vanish.”

Parulekar now is in the midst of putting together the inside story of the agitation and the real reasons for their break-up — a sneak peak had me reeling with some explosive facts. Still, it is rather off putting to see such a very public spat between people who, after all, changed the collective conscience of the nation for whatever it was worth. But Hazare’s fast on the safe home ground of Ralegan Siddhi now is such a futile attempt to recapture the lost magic of the Ramlila agitation though throwing out people in whom he has clearly lost trust and confidence at least means he is now back in charge of his own life — and that is just as it should be.

All said and done, though, it was Anna and Kejriwal together who had captured the imagination of the nation. It is rather sad to see the movement fall apart for petty personal considerations.


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