Since his moral victory in forcing the government to form a joint panel for drafting the long pending Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare has been facing sniper attacks from politicians of all hues.
Kapil Sibal took a pot shot at him for his obsession with the Lokpal bill claiming that the people’s problems were different and that the bill had no significance for the illiterate and thirsty. This was a specious argument, considering the fact that the poor and the illiterate are most affected by corruption because it denies them the their much needed entitlements. Digvijay Singh then suggested that Anna Hazare should fight elections. This was a subtle reminder that the influence veiled by him was extra constitutional and that the government may not be willing to oblige him all the time. His reference to elections is consistent with the thinking of the political class that considers electoral victory (by fare or foul means) to be the touch stone of all power in a Democracy and attaches no significance to morality. Pranab Mukeherjee dubbed the joint panel as a ‘new experiment‘, the success or failure of which will determine its outcome, hinting government unease and a possible future snub. L.K. Advani in a veiled attack, criticized persons close to Anna Hazare for demonizing politicians. There was even a tame protest by various political parties against the overt attempt of agitating Civil Society activists to distance themselves from all political parties by refusing entry to them. To top it all, an anonymous CD surfaced just days before the first meeting of the joint panel, accusing the Civil society co-chair,Shanti Bhushan of trying to negotiate to fix a judge. Another bomb shell was dropped by the Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde, who is also a civil society representative on the panel, by his statement that he was considering to resign from the panel in view of the ongoing slander campaign against them.
All of the above may seem like disparate and disjointed criticism, but their real target is the Lokpal Bill itself. Politicians fear that the presence of civil society members will throw up a draft that will be politically very costly to oppose. This is why they are desperately trying to nibble away the credibility of the civil society members to turn the panel into a nonstarter . They were all together in condemning Anna Hazare for his denigrating of the politicians. This despite the fact that everyone agrees that the movement would have fallen flat on its face, had it been perceived to be obligated to any political party. This predicament of politicians where it is hard even to argue that there are good as well as bad politicians, is what worries the top political leaders most. Yet the decline has not been sudden. Things have grown from bad to worse. For years civil society activists have waged a loosing battle for reforms. Thinks have failed to take off wherever interests of the ruling elite have converged. Political leadership have also failed miserably in isolating the bad apples amongst them. For too long the law makers have reveled in being the chief law breakers.
Even though in the past too there have been many fasts unto death inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, most have faced public apathy, some were dubbed as maverick acts, some were even made fun of. Very few have received the wide spread public support that Anna Hazare got. His honesty and simplicity though were only part of the reason. The other important reason was the in rising public anger against rampant corruption and the recently unleashed season of corruption that never ends. Even though there is no denying the danger of a sustained denigration of politicians in general, corrective measures are needed to restore the balance of public concern in governance. Only massive public support can ensure that the involvement of civil society does not remain an isolated experiment but leads to more responsive governance that acts instead of stalling crucial reform legislations such as Women’s reservation, Election reform, Police reform, Witness protection act etc. apart from the Lokpal Bill and the anti corruption measures.