Mamata Banerjee has extended support to Anna Hazare. Not only support, he has also said that he will campaign for Mamata Banerjee and he would want that Mamata Banerjee becomes the next Prime Minister of the country. Anna Hazare stayed away from politics all his life. He has never extended support to any political party, has never gone on the platforms of political parties, and has never allowed any political party to come anywhere near him. The question is, why has Anna Hazare extended support to Mamata Banerjee for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections? This question is in the minds of all the people who just see Anna Hazare, but do not listen to what he says and nor do they want to understand the significance, the essence hidden in what he says. Till three months ago Anna Hazare said that he does not consider sides or parties to be in accordance with the Constitution. He says that the words ‘political party’ are not mentioned in the Constitution of India and nor is there mention of the party system. The words ‘democratic republic’ are there in the Constitution of India. Then where did these political parties come from?
What was it that then happened to suddenly make Anna Hazare indicate in Delhi on 8 and 9 February that he believed Mamata Banerjee was the most honest, a personality who was the most committed and dedicated to the people? When he returned from Delhi on the morning of 10 February and reached Poona, he said in a special interview to India TV that he wanted to see Mamata Banerjee as the Prime Minister of the country and that he would strive for this as much as possible. In spite of this, people did not believe it and the biggest thing – how after all did this unlikely event happen ? How did Anna Hazare, sacrificing his anti politics, non political resolution break his pledge and announce support for the Trinamool Congress?
On 30 January last year Anna Hazare held a big rally at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan. It was a splendid rally. And in this rally almost one lakh seventy five thousand people, that is, close to two lakh people came. There Anna Hazare said that my objective is to bring the Jan Lokpal, the Right to Reject, Right to Recall, but the biggest thing I want is to bring about a change in the system and the meaning of change was to bring about a complete change in the entire policies of the country. The current market based economic policies in the country are like poison for Anna. He believes that till villages in the country become strong, till village based industries are established, till then unemployment in the country cannot be tackled. Nor can corruption be fought and neither can inflation be controlled. Anna explained these thoughts of his in detail at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan rally. Then from 30 March, Anna began his countrywide tour. Anna went to Amritsar. He went to Jallianwala Bagh, which he calls ‘martyr’s land’, applied its soil to his forehead. He bowed his head before the monument to martyrs and started out on his country wide tour.
Anna toured Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. He travelled about 28 thousand kilometers. He addressed more than seven hundred and fifty meetings. At every meeting, he reiterated his resolution to change the country and said that I am in favour of sending to Parliament people with character, people who are energetic and honest instead of political parties. Anna kept awakening the people on the Jan Lokpal too. In fact, while on the one hand this country wide tour was a strong campaign for awakening the people, on the other hand for Anna too it was a medium for understanding himself, and more than that, understanding the country. During this whole tour, Anna saw the pains and suffering of the people, the attitude of the Governments and political parties.
The current market based economic policies in the country are like poison for Anna. He believes that till villages in the country become strong, till village based industries are established, till then unemployment in the country cannot be tackled. Nor can corruption be fought and neither can inflation be controlled.
Anna saw too that the very people he had inspired to stand by him in 2011 at his fast unto death at the Ram Lila Maidan in New Delhi, some amongst those very people were opposing him at places, because by that time Arvind Kejriwal had announced forming his political party and people wanted Anna Hazare to do nothing new, but to support Arvind Kejriwal’s new political party. For Anna, it was a faith breaking situation, but without losing patience he explained to people everywhere why he was against political parties. During his speeches throughout the tour, significant meanings began to emerge. Anna announced during his meeting in Varanasi that he would go on a fast unto death from the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament if the Jan Lokpal Bill was not passed.
In all this churning Anna also said at one place that he was in search of a third force which would stand against the market based economy and develop the villages in the form of powerful legislative centres. Village-based industries should be set up, nobody should go outside the village-block or district for employment, farmers should get the full and correct prices for their crops, no land of the farmers should be acquired and the rights of water, forest, and land should be under the Gram Sabha. Anna began voicing his thinking in his speeches and then came May. Anna stopped his tour for a few days because he had to have an eye operation and when Anna came to Delhi to begin the second leg of his tour, a map had begun to form in his mind.
When he came to Delhi, Anna wrote a letter to political parties. He wrote in the letter that what had happened so far had happened, now, for the country, everyone should sit together and together should make a plan for the development of villages and the poor. For this Anna suggested an initial 17 points. These 17 points were the milestones for a changed path in the country, they were the signs of making a new history, but no political party responded to these points. Anna was continuously thinking, are the political parties no insensitive that they did not care for the people? In that letter Anna had written with great feeling that if you include these issues in your election manifesto, a new confidence will be generated in people to be freed from long standing mismanagement, corruption, unemployment and inflation that has been prevailing for more than 60 years, because all along the routes he was touring Anna had seen that anger had increased in people to such an extent that they had begun to believe that Governments were responsible for their sorrows and problems.
Anna said in many meetings that Naxalism had thrived not because people were keen to become Naxalites but because the system had not done its job, did not give people their share of development, snatched the food from people’s plates, snatched away their water, snatched their forest, snatched their land, and nowhere was this fact hidden from Anna.
Suddenly, a message came to Anna Hazare from Mamata Banerjee that she is very excited about his letter and her messenger said that in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee had implemented many of these things and wanted to know that if she supports his letter, would Anna accept that support. It struck Anna suddenly that he had a means to change the system. In fact, Anna was thinking of two ways to change the system. On the one hand he wanted to make the people stand up, and on the other hand he wanted to search for people in the political parties who would try honestly to change the system. As soon as he received Mamata Banerjee’s message, Anna, without giving any reply, began to ponder over it and taking a very long distance view, asked one or two of his
associates whether if some people are sent to change the system, people’s candidates are sent to Parliament, would it be encouraging for the public? Anna does not take a decision based on people’s opinions. Rather, he takes decisions on the answers that come to his heart based on people.
In this process, a lot of people distance themselves from Anna, because so far mostly such people have come to Anna who want to fulfill their agendas through him. Many people amongst them were those in love with political parties. They wanted to turn Anna that way. Anna would listen to everybody, would not refuse anybody, but would take a decision from his own heart. Perhaps a churning of Anna’s ideas was going on within Mamata. That is why in the middle of January Mamata Banerjee asked her General Secretary to reply immediately to Anna’s letter and inform him that some steps have been taken in accordance with his ideas in 2009 and 2011 and on a national scale she not only accepts Anna’s economic programme, but she hoped that Anna would provide guidance in implementing the programme. This letter reached Anna who quietly kept this letter with him and did not disclose it to anyone. Mamata Banerjee had wanted that Anna should come for her rally on 30 January 2014 at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata and present his views. He need not support the Trinamool Congress, but he should present to the people the road map he has for addressing the anger and pain of the people. But Anna Hazare did not accept it and did not go for the 30 January, 2014 rally in Kolkata.
The rally at Kolkata was historic. There were about 20 lakh people within the Parade Ground, 10 lakh people near and around the Parade Ground, and crowds of around 3 lakh to 4 lakh people were on the roads, heading towards the Parade Ground, but milling around because they couldn’t find a way to move ahead. The entire Brigade Parade Ground was packed with people, slogans were raised. People had started coming to Kolkata 24 hours before the rally. And which people? People who had come from every corner of West Bengal. There was no part from where people had not come for the rally. At the rally, Mamata Banerjee yelled out from the platform, ‘danga party chai na’ (we don’t want a rioters party ) and the crowd responded and yelled back enthusiastically, ‘danga party chai na, Congress chai na). The way Mamata Banerjee took the names of Narendra Modi, the Congress, the BJP at the Kolkata rally and used the term ‘danga party’ is significant. It is significant because a short while ago, former West West Bengal Chief Minister and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M ) politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had alleged at a rally that “It is no secret that Modi and the Trinamool Congress have entered into an alliance…” and Mamata Banerjee’s statement at the 30 January rally gave the lie to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s assertion. Actually, if today one wants to discredit to anyone, it has become a fashion to link Narendra Modi’s name with that person. The CPI(M) is very disturbed about its declining mass base in Kolkata and indeed in the whole of West Bengal. So when they made allegations against Mamata Banerjee and she replied to them, the situation became absolutely clear.
Anna Hazare was keeping a canny eye on the whole situation. He had great hopes that people like Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik would respond to his letter. Anna had never made a secret of his affection for Nitish Kumar. He had known Nitish Kumar from much before and being Hindi-speaking he tried to make an attempt to understand Nitish Kumar. But when Nitish Kumar did not reply to his letter, Anna Hazare felt that politics affects even good people. He then started pondering over Mamata Banerjee’s letter. He felt that Mamata Banerjee can be the one who can uplift the people of this country. Though Anna had so far not met Mamata Banerjee, he got information about her, he got information about governance in West Bengal, got information about the love people had for her, and the way she had won in the Panchayat elections, he got information about that too. So perhaps in his mind there were no doubts left and he himself made up his mind to stand in favour of Mamata Banerjee.
It was going on in Anna’s mind that independents could stand on one side, but on the other side if Mamata Banerjee gives an affidavit to the public that she will implement Anna’s 17 point programmes in the country, then Mamata Banerjee should be supported because leave alone implementing the 17 point programmes, no one else was even willing to discuss them. Besides, all the people who were meeting Anna Hazare or listening to his speeches were saying we believe in what you are saying Anna, but tell us who to vote for. Anna would remain silent on this, because he had no weapons, no organisation about which he could say vote for this party to change the system.
Anna pondered over Mamata Banerjee for a whole month and a half, and on the evening of 8 February he took part for the first time in a meeting of Gandhiwadis at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi. At the meeting Anna Hazare created a stir by saying that I have made a 17 economic programme for the country and Mamata Banerjee has responded to that programme and I think Mamata Banerjee is the right sort of person. The speech that he gave praising Mamata startled everyone and when Anna left, no one went to meet him. Anna Hazare also went to a programme organised by the Indian Express newspaper and said that in contrast to Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee does not indulge in theatrics and has been living a life of simplicity for the last thirty-forty years. On returning to Pune, Anna gave an interview in favour of Mamata, which I have already mentioned earlier.
On 11 February Anna got news that on 13 February, Mamata Banerjee wanted to send two of her MPs to meet Anna. On 13 February the General Secretary of the Trinamool Congress, Mukul Roy, and Rajya Sabha MP, K. D. Singh, reached Anna’s village Ralegan Siddhi and met Anna. They greeted Anna by presenting him with a shawl sent by Mamata and began talks with Anna on the political situation.
In the midst of this a phone call came from Mamata Banerjee to Anna and she requested a meeting with Anna in Delhi on 18 February. Anna agreed to the request. Mukul Roy gave as much information as he could about West Bengal and Mamata Banerjee’s life to Anna. In turn, Anna told him that I will meet Mamata in Delhi on the 18th and on the 19th I will also hold a press conference. Emerging from the meeting, Anna told the waiting media that I think Mamata Banerjee is worthy of being the Prime Minister and I will campaign for making her the Prime Minister. Not only that, I will also campaign in favour of the Trinamool Congress and will ask people to vote for it.
This was Anna’s own decision. Anna took this decision after seeing the character of all the political parties in India. He saw only in Mamata Banerjee that fire which could produce the energy to change the economic policy in India. He saw in Mamata Banerjee the simplicity of Lal Bahadur Shastri which could energise the people of the country to oppose PL 480 wheat from America. Anna said without any hesitation that in the coming elections he would campaign for Mamata Banerjee and would also make her the Prime Minister.
This whole series of events shows at least one thing — that Anna Hazare’s strong wish to change the country eventually brought him to a politician about whom he knew nothing. In any case the people of our country, apart from knowing Delhi and the surrounding States don’t know about anywhere or anyone else. As soon as Anna came to know about Mamata Banerjee’s life, her ideals and the steps she has taken he did not delay his decision even by a second. Mamata Banerjee’s support by Anna could create problems for many political parties in this country and political parties are also very worried about it, but the people are happy about it. Anna Hazare wants to make independent candidates stand as well, besides campaigning for all those who will want to fight on Mamata’s election symbol. But there is an apprehension in the mind of Anna – that how will independent candidates be able to tell the people about their election symbols in such a short time. However, to change the system, Anna wants to adopt all possible ways in this election. But Anna is totally clear on this : that a candidate will have to give an affidavit to work for the people, will have to take an oath to work for the people, in the affidavit giving in a resignation will have to mentioned if he is found not working, along with fighting for the 17 point economic programme in Parliament.
People are believing that Mamata Banerjee’s name will be acceptable to all as the next Prime Minister. The line of division can be seen clearly. On the one side are the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party and with them all the parties who are supporting the neo-liberal economic order and who are standing against the farmers, villages, water, forest, land rights and want to gobble them up. On the other side are those who are against the existing economy, who want to bring in a new economy in which nobody can take away land from the farmers, labourers, the poor, or from villages and who want to give the same legislative powers and rights to the Gram Sabhas which are there with Parliament. This time, the fight that will take place between these forces will be decided by the people.
The biggest challenge before Mamata Banerjee is to give information to the people on economic issues, and to not only believe with all her heart and soul in the directions of Anna Hazare, but to also make people believe that they will be implemented. Where there is this challenge on the one hand, on the other hand there is unlimited potential. But there is another big wonder which will always remain a wonder : how did such a big political decision come about! Who acted as the narrator, who turned questions into opportunities and who created a new challenge before Modi and Rahul Gandhi? This secret will always remain a mystery, because neither will Anna Hazare reveal it and nor will Mamata Banerjee reveal it.