The government’s ham-handed response has allowed Hazare and co to get the upper hand.
The Team Anna vs the government drama has assumed the proportions of a World Cup cricket final. The captains of the two teams seem to have worked out their strategies but it is quite clear who is more proactive here.
It is Anna and his followers.
In recent times, they have played it pitch perfect. From Anna’s tearful television appearances in a children’s dance programme to prime time news, he has had audiences eating out of his hands. His more abrasive fellow travellers like Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal have stayed in his shadow stirring out occasionally to shadow box with the government.
Then we had the moving picture of Anna sitting in quiet contemplation near Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi, invoking comparisons with the greatest Indian who walked this earth. The cyber world is aflame with support for a cause most people know little about, even less identify with.
It has become all about humble Anna taking on a mighty government, asking it to put in place structures to eradicate corruption. The government which should have played this with the finesse of a Zen master has instead opened up the metaph-orical water cannons on Anna and co.
Before he could begin his fast-unto-death in Jayaprakash Narayan Memorial Park, he was rounded up and whisked away to angry protest against State highhandedness.
Undemocratic, unconstitutional, intolerable, the words of condemnation came thick and fast as the government notched it up further with the police first remanding Anna to seven days in judicial custody in Tihar jail. This was quickly followed by the decision to release him.
The irony could not be lost on anyone. Anna in a jail, even though for a short time, where such symbols of corruption like former telecom minister A Raja and former Commonwealth Games Organising Committee boss Suresh Kalmadi are cooling their heels.
The government has every right to insist that law and order be maintained, that thoroughfares are not blocked and that those who are not part of the Anna campaign have the right to go about their business unhindered.
But to stoop to a war of words with people which the government itself insists have no constitutional legitimacy is to undermine its own cause. This ham-handed response has allowed Team Anna to get the upper hand with other political formations coming to its support.
If ever the government needed some advice on how to play this out well, it is now. It has certainly lost the advantage with its iron fist in an iron glove approach.
So far, it is Team Anna which has hit the ground running.
Perhaps, like a good cricket team, it is time the government went into a huddle and came up with Plan B before it crashes out of the game.