The Anna Hazare movement may have begun with corruption as its chief plank, but by the time a jubilant crowd of protesters trickled out of the Ramlila Maidan on August 28, the ‘reforms charter’ had widened significantly to include a host of other issues that confront the common man. No one took it for granted that Team Anna would be as successful in espousing these new causes as it was in drumming up support for an effective anti-corruption legislation. Towards the end, therefore, there emerged two schools of thought on how the movement should progress from here on: the first sought to focus on corruption alone till the Lokpal bill was tabled and approved in Parliament, while the other advocated a wider embrace of issues revolving around corruption.
A day after August 28, when Anna broke his fast following a settlement between the government and civil society, lawyer and Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said the movement had gone beyond corruption. Co-member Medha Patkar too said that corruption had to be seen as something multi-dimensional and not just confined to the acts of taking and giving of bribes.
Looking at the road ahead, their colleague on the Anna team Arvind Kejriwal says, “The core committee, comprising 22 people, is trying to streamline the issues that will be taken up. We are also trying to work out whether we should look at issues sequentially or at the same time.” He also claimed that laws relating to land acquisition and electoral reforms, like the right to recall and the right to reject, were always part of the agitation. “Back in April, this (electoral reforms) was raised by Anna when he fasted for five days, but the media failed to pick it up,” he says. That deficit, in any case, looks set to be compensated for.
The provisions of the right to recall and reject are in use in panchayat elections in Bihar and some places in Chhattisgarh. This, some say, is because of the smaller voting populations there. However, whether this feature can be made available to voters in assembly and parliamentary segments has to be worked out with the Election Commission. Such a right, it is believed, would encourage a greater engagement of the people with the political process.
The moral victory achieved by this movement has come at an opportune moment for many rights-based groups. As if on cue, Medha Patkar says that the antique Land Acquisition Act of 1894 was what they to take head-on next. However, as Kejriwal acknowledges, it is useful to present things more simply so as to be able to mobilise people effectively. Maybe this was the reason why the Hazare movement was boiled down to two issues: contents of the Jan Lokpal bill and the means of protest.
As the real work begins now for the Hazare team, the government too, it is reported, has learnt its lessons from the Hazare movement. Anxious about the media’s role in magnifying Anna’s protest, one may expect another government committee to suggest possible ways to impose “self-regulation” on the media. Already, as some sections of the media have reported, the prime minister has decided to set up a small group to deal with issues concerning the accountability and regulation of the media in the light of its dedicated, round-the-clock coverage of the Anna movement. The members of the group and the precise terms of their responsibility are to be spelt out later.
Besides the government, even politicians cutting across party lines have asked for some sort of a regulatory structure for the media. This is to curb any media-driven campaign that might threaten their turf in the future.