Anna vs Baba – and the War Against Corruption

Two months ago, India witnessed a spectacular support of Anna Hazare’s fast. The success of Anna‘s fast was due to an amalgamation of various aspects. I have personally known several volunteers of India Against Corruption working hard for several months to organize this agitation against corruption, and I have seen the energy and passion of the supporters who visited Anna at Jantar Mantar. The India Against Corruption group had Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi at the fore front for moblising volunteers. It had a single focus, had chosen the right leader and right timing – and effectively leveraged technology and online social networks.

While media didn’t pay much attention to the months of preparation, they covered the event non-stop after the fasting began. Such attention certainly brought additional people to the movement, including those who were hearing about Anna or anti-corruption movements for the first time. The core issue touched a chord with people. The urban educated middle-class, the group that has long held the reputation of being the most cynic or most apathetic, had finally said “enough is enough”.

The movement was not without criticisms and controversies, however. Several bloggers questioned the morality of fasting as a way of protest and whether it was legitimate to have non-elected members to be part of drafting committee. There were doubts about Lokpal Bill’s effectiveness, questions about Lokpal committee members’ suitability, and disagreements about whether the committee meetings should be telecast.

Then, Baba Ramdev declared that he would begin fasting from Jun 4th demanding black money supposedly stashed in foreign banks to be brought to India. The way UPA handled his protests has been criticised throughout the country. I have speculated about UPA’s actions in my previous post.

It is interesting to note the differences between the approaches or situations of Anna and Baba. Anna is a Gandhian and his efforts had formed the base for Right To Information Act. Baba is a yoga guru and has managed to mobilise thousands of people. Anna wears white clothes, Baba Saffron. No one seem to have kept tab of whether minorities (primarily Muslims and Christians) were among Anna’s supporters. On the other hand, the religion of Baba’s supporter-base has been noted as exclusively Hindus. Several celebrities had supported Anna, but couple of Bollywood Khan’s criticism of Baba was published in the media. Anna managed to keep everything apolitical even when several politicians mentioned their support, but BJP’s support for Baba made matters go out of control.

Since the issue at hand is black–(not saffron or green!) money, none of these should have mattered. But religion has always mattered a lot in India – and it seems to evoke strong emotions. Hindu practices such as yoga, saffron robe and advocacy against cow slaughter can be easily discredited as being anti-Muslim in a religiously sensitive India. British exploited this phenomenon with their “divide and conquer” strategy. After British, several politicians – Congress and BJP included – have exploited this in various ways. UPA may have tried this strategy again – to break up the movement by bringing fear of Hindutva, and making it a case of Hindu extremists against Congress rather than Indian Citizens against Corruption.

I wouldn’t say India Against Corruption and other groups should ban Hindu spiritual leaders from joining anti-corruption movement. If Swamis are supporting, perhaps sustained attempts should be made to get the support of Muslim leaders and/or Bishops publicly. After all, politicians and parties care about votes – so, if every section of the society participates in the anti-corruption movement, thus effectively creating a new votebank, the movement will have sustained success.

If we are to mature as a nation, we can’t continue to rely on agitations for law-making for too long. During 1857-1947, India needed many agitators and protestors to fight for freedom and against British. When British left on Aug 15 1947, India needed builders and leaders. Similarly, when win our “second freedom fight” against corruption, most of our current politicians will be ineligible to continue! We need to have a plan for filling the vacuum of leadership. I call upon India Against Corruption leaders and activists to take up active politics as well as identify and develop future leaders.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by SRINIVASAN TBN on June 7, 2011 at 5:31 am

    shanthala..True. we need to develop future leaders, but it is going to call for sacrifice…..not sure how many new leaders will,can, sustain ? But True grit, determination and chanakaya politics are the qualities required.


    • Posted by Natvarlal R Trivedi, Ahmedabad on June 13, 2011 at 7:23 am

      Shanthala, You have rightly described difference between thew two workers. Baba has lost credentiality by escaping the scene, hiding himself in female dress & thereby trying to avoid arrest by police. Yesterday he stopped ‘Ananshana”. A satyagrahi never tries to leave platform or avoid arrest or make retreat in anyway. All his demands were also unconstitutional.
      Happy that you young generation think of pure politics.Keep up……………

      Natvarlal R Trivedi, Ahmedabad.


  2. We all youth of our country should support this kind of leaders to fight against corruption in India.As we can see that Baba Ramdev is al supporting in this camping to bring all the black money back to India. We all support in anti-corruption actmovement.


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