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Congress reaped what it sowed: Kiran Bedi

The movement and the fast ended abruptly with the movement splitting into two. AAP was born a few months later. And within nine months of its formation it inflicted the most humiliating defeat on the Congress in the Delhi polls. The Congress called for this. It had several opportunities to redress the genuine demands. But it chose to ignore them as it was arrogant, writes Kiran Bedi.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2013 10:51 IST

Did the Congress reap the defeat it sowed? What made it lose so badly at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi Assembly elections? Was it avoidable? Here is a rewind to 2010.

The first combined public outcry against corruption came when colossal financial misappropriations in the Commonwealth Games became known. The government instead of launching a police investigation instituted an inquiry. This exposed the government's intention to protect the corrupt. It infuriated the public and compelled them to take to the streets.

Sixteen members of civil society came together to file an FIR on November 15, 2010 to set in motion the investigative processes. This marked the beginning of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement when seeds of an uprising were sown. (And prepared the ground for AAP.)

It was now becoming evident that to combat corruption of the scale being witnessed, India needed a very strong independent investigative agency (such as lokpal) as envisaged in the UN convention.

The prominent faces of the IAC movement exposed the toothless Lokpal Bill as drafted by the government and wanted it replaced with an effective one. A people's march to demand a strong lokpal was organised.

The march took place in Delhi in January 2011. It culminated in a public denouncement and the tearing of the government-drafted lokpal bill by thousands of people belonging to all sections of society in full public view. Thus began the uprising of Indians against Corruption. (Maximum use of SMS and other means was used for this, sowing the seeds for extensive use of social media.)

Anna announces fast
Key representatives of the movement meeting the Prime Minister also did not help, leading to Anna Hazare announcing his fast, starting at Jantar Mantar on April 5, 2011. It was telecast live! The entire country came alive! (Uniting and giving the connectivity for later activism. And AAP)

Under huge pressure, the government conceded the main demand of appointing a joint committee to draft an effective lokpal bill. Anna broke his fast. The nation rose to its feet. (The first victory and harbinger of more.)

It was soon realised that the joint committee was a breach of trust. Government conceded nothing. No demands were met. (Provided nutrition for the ground already prepared.)
Members of the movement kept meeting across political spectrum to drum up support for re-writing of the bill. But to no avail.

Now rewind to August 16, 2011.
Anna decided to sit on a fast unto death. The movement gathered nationwide support.In the early hours of August 16, 2011, Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia prepared to leave for Ramlila Ground in Delhi, the venue of Anna's indefinite fast. They were arrested and sent to jail. Shanti Bhushan and I were arrested from outside Rajghat.

The police action outraged the nation and protests were widespread. It united the people across professions and strata through various modes of protest. (Now sowing the seeds of anger in the ground prepared.)

The government yielded under pressure and agreed to release Anna. But Anna started his fast while in jail and refused to leave the jail till given an unconditional permission to sit at Ramlila Maidan for continuing his indefinite fast. The country resonated with the slogan 'I am Anna'. Heads wearing white Gandhi caps with 'I am Anna' printed on them became visible all across the nation. (Same white cap now says Aam Aadmi.)

The Anna wave rattled the government and it conceded to his demand. Anna moved to Ramlila Maidan and continued his fast. The media covered Anna's fast and his movement 24x7. Alongside, the IAC movement was using all tools of social networking, reaching out globally for mass support. (As AAP did). The extent of the movement was such that the protest reached the doorsteps of the United Nations and overseas. (AAP reaped these in support later through considerable financial and volunteer support from NRIs.)

Govt agrees
Finally, on the 11th day of the fast, Parliament passed a unanimous resolution agreeing to consider Anna's three key demands. A written letter of commitment, addressed to Anna Hazare, was hand-delivered from the Prime Minister's Office.
On receiving the letter of commitment, Anna broke his fast amid celebrations across India. (It united the country.)

Post this, the government resorted to dirty tricks by launching a smear campaign against members of the movement. (This aggravated the anger.)

Meanwhile, team members continued to spread awareness about the lokpal bill. They travelled to various states which were going in for assembly elections urging people to vote out the corrupt in big numbers. (This was a start of the aggressive voter campaigns.)

A thought emerged in Kejriwal's mind to test whether the lokpal bill could be made an election agenda and so it ventured into assembly elections in Hisar. (Saplings of AAP were sown.)

Meanwhile, members called for a Jail Bharo Aandolan, for mass arrest. In response to this, the government said it was fast-tracking the lokpal bill in the winter session of Parliament in 2011.

The winter session of Parliament began. The Lok Sabha debated on the lokpal bill. The Prime Minister and the allies went back on the August 2011 resolution. The Lok Sabha approved the government-drafted lokpal bill. The Rajya Sabha, however, was divided over amendments proposed by the opposition. Lokpal's fate hung in the balance. The Rajya Sabha chairman adjourned the house at the stroke of midnight, leaving the lokpal bill un-passed. (Yet another instance of deception.)

After not getting the bill from Parliament, some members of the IAC made public their view that the movement did not know the way forward. (Setting the stage for a political direction.)

Electoral route
The first fissures in ideology started to emerge. One group preferred taking the electoral route, (and they did) while the other was not inclined. Fissures in ideology also led to fissures in the group. Some members also got dropped in view of their double-crossing.

The movement still continued to expose corruption and sought the establishment of a special investigation team to probe graft charges, in public domain, against 15 ministers, which also included the allegations of Coalgate scam against the Prime Minister.

When the government again ignored their demand and considered it of no consequence, Arvind, Manish and Gopal Rai decided to go on an indefinite fast on July 25, 2012, targeting ministers and MPs having criminal records. The government continued to pay no heed to this. Instead it planned to forcibly remove the three to hospital and feed them.

The movement and the fast ended abruptly with the movement splitting into two. Aam Aadmi Party was born a few months later.

And within nine months of its formation it inflicted the most punishing and humiliating defeat on the Congress in the Delhi assembly elections for all to see.

The Congress called for this. It had several opportunities, as evident from above, to redress the genuine demands. But it chose to ignore them. It was arrogant. Also corrupt.

It has reaped what it sowed. It has reaped a whirlwind full of thorns. It has only itself to blame! Law of nature is in full play!

First Published: Dec 08, 2013 23:36 IST