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Anna, The Maskot

The ‘S’ word and its intemperate course

Anna, The Maskot
PTI
Anna, The Maskot
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

Fast Friends

  • Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal will lead the movement.
  • Both will go on fast in July
  • Anna to be mascot, may not fast if health does not permit
  • ”Corrupt” politicians will be named as the agitiation starts

***

It’s insulting enough for anyone to be described as Shikandi, given the connotations of impotence the name carries on its own; it’s even worse for a man who has been caricatured as a yesman, but wears his character and integrity as badges of honour. Deeply hurt by the comparison foisted upon him by senior advocate and Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan, prime minister Manmohan Singh offered to quit public life if any of the charges levelled against him by the anti-corruption crusader were proved. The specific charge is of wrongdoing in the allotment of coal blocks for mining, based on a preliminary CAG report—a scam that has come to be known as Coalgate.

So far, Team Anna had shied away from targeting the prime minister; even at the height of Anna Hazare’s campaign, it was the government that was targeted—not Manmohan. But although Bhushan’s fellow-campaigner Arvind Kejriwal has since apologised for the former’s caustic tongue, Anna Hazare’s team maintains the charges need to be investigated. No one can tell why Manmohan wasn’t referred to as Dhritrashtra, the blind king in the Mahabharata who symbolised blindness to corrupt ways. But Bhushan’s unfortunate comparison caught on; a day after, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha too used it for the prime minister.


Colours of graft? Team Anna members at a press meet in Delhi on May 26. (Photograph by Sanjay Rawat)

Team Anna is standing by the charges levelled against Manmohan. Not just that, 13 cabinet ministers too have been named in an attempt to shame them. After a brief lull, when the movement against corruption appeared to have lost steam, Team Anna is fighting back—but minus Anna. Bhushan and Kejriwal seem to have taken over the reins of the crusade to give Anna some rest.

Anti-corruption campaigners’ intemperate language has left Manmohan Singh deeply hurt

Behind this is also perception that Anna, given his age, is vulnerable to pressure from politicians, specially those from his native Maharashtra. Hence the movement now will be channelised and spearheaded by Bhushan, a man whom the government fears and loathes in equal measure. Kejriwal, often referred to as the crowd mobiliser-cum-media planner and strategist, says, “Anna needs rest, given his age and health.”

It seems the movement is undergoing a change. What is now being planned is an aggressive attack on the government, more agitations and a fast beginning in the last week of July. “We will fast again,” says Kejriwal. The recent attack on the prime minister and his cabinet, one is told, is just the beginning. Gone are the vague attacks on the entire political class and the government. Instead, the attack is sharp and targeted. Says a source from the movement, “It was important for us to let people know the names of the corrupt in the government. While corruption struck a chord with people, it was also important for us to identify the corrupt in the political class. All of them, it would seem, are above the law.”

It is also not surprising that the team is not speaking of the Lokpal bill—which, for all practical purposes, has been shelved. While the Budget session has gone by without a discussion, it is learnt that the bill has been slated for discussion in the last week of the monsoon session in July. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the bill will come up for discussion. “We are going to adopt an aggressive strategy after July,” says Kejriwal. While the team knows that asking for an SIT to examine charges of corruption is unlikely to be complied with by the government, the pitch has been queered. There may well be differences within the team on issues ranging from naming the prime minister to turning into a political movement. Differences, whether imagined or real, between core team members too might crop up ocassionally. What is for real is another round of mobilisation. This time by Bhushan and Kejriwal. And both of them plan to fast to the finish.

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