ANNA'S ROLE IN CHANGING VOTING PATTERNS : IS ANNA THE NEW APOSTLE OF CHANGE?

LEADBefore the recent assembly elections in five States, there was much discussion amongst intellectuals in the society that these elections would be important because awareness levels in the country were increasing. The election results came and in these results it was not the politicians and leaders but the public which won. That public which was covered with a mantle of allegations that it does not move out of houses to vote. On whom there were allegations that it went to cast its vote at the voting booths on casteist thinking and lines. On whom there were allegations that it remained imprisoned within the circle of regionalism. It is a victory of the all round pressure created by this public that has compelled the Government to bring up and discuss public welfare issues like the Jan Lokpal. More than this, the biggest victory of the public has been in giving ‘power to the people’.

If one thinks carefully, the background for this campaign of change was not prepared in a day. To understand this fully, we will have to go back two years in time, when Anna Hazare lit the Jan Lokpal torch at Jantar-Mantar and the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. The country took a sideways turn and once again one-liners and slogans like ‘vacate the throne, the people are coming’ were increasingly on everybody’s tongue. It was in the same period that Anna had said ‘I am only a medium, you have to fight the real fight. The youth of the country are commendable, and they should carry forward the baton of change and become agents of change.”
In the past two years, at a social level, we have heard several times the voice of the public which was trying with all its might to bring the system back on the right path. Whatever section or segment it was, when it felt that changing the system is necessary, it raised its voice and people came together. Whether it was a so called religious master or mystic who claimed a following of thousands of disciples, whether it was a journalist, a judge, a politician, whoever came in the circle of suspicion and doubt just had to go to the court of the people. The milling crowds that gathered at India Gate intent on getting justice for Damini and the students who ‘gheraod’ (surrounded) Parliament to protest against the increasingly dominant use of English in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) were in fact moving forward and placing their demands on the ‘Shantipath’ ( the peaceful path) suggested by Anna Hazare. Such instances began coming in from all over the country.

There is a difference in the political awareness of the decade of the 70’s and today’s political awareness. On the lines of Indira’s Garibi Hatao, Anna has not made a Sonia Hatao appeal. Anna’s appeal is to bring practical change in the system, to enhance people’s participation and to end Constitutional violation by political parties, to end casteism, regionalism and family domination in politics. Anna has persisted with issues like Right to Reject, Right to Recall, None of the Above options and kept demanding that more strength should be given to Gram Panchayats.

Yet at the political level such instances were not forthcoming. In the meanwhile in October, 2011, by elections were held in Hissar in Haryana. Anna Hazare appealed to the people of Hissar that since Congress did not want to give power in your hands through the Jan Lokpal, you should defeat it. The Congress lost the elections. By going with Anna, the people had given forewarning that the country was returning to the same period of political awareness that had been sampled in the decade of the 70s. But there is a difference in the political awareness of the decade of the 70’s and today’s political awareness. On the lines of Indira’s Garibi Hatao, Anna has not made a Sonia Hatao appeal. Anna’s appeal is to bring practical change in the system, to enhance people’s participation and to end Constitutional violation by political parties, to end casteism, regionalism and family domination in politics.
Anna has persisted with issues like Right to Reject, Right to Recall, None of the Above options and kept demanding that more strength should be given to Gram Panchayats. For quite some time, Anna has been touring the country on a Jantantra Yatra, taking his messages amongst the people. Since the start of the yatra, the recent assembly elections were the first occasion when an election atmosphere was there in the country. Therefore, the assembly elections to the five States were a test of what Anna Hazare has been propounding but more than that they were a test for the people — whether the people actually want change or want to continue with the same political ways which were in such bad shape. And the election results made it clear that the people want change, all they need is the right leadership and someone to show them the right path.
In almost all the States, most of the sitting legislator-Ministers were defeated in the elections, when the people ‘rejected’ their lethargy. For the first time, in Delhi 55 out of 70 MLAs and in Chhattisgarh 49 out of 90 MLAs suffered defeat. In Chhattisgarh, out of its 50 MLAs, the BJP had given a second chance to 37 MLAs, of whom 21 were defeated in the election. The Congress, out of its 38 MLAs had given a second chance to 34, and 27 of them were defeated in the election. In Rajasthan, 22 Ministers of the Gehlot Government lost elections. In Madhya Pradesh, 10 Ministers of Shivraj Chauhan’s Government were defeated in the election. In Delhi, Congress leader Chaudhary Prem Singh had been continuously winning from 1958 onward, but he too was swept away by the wave of change. Actually, this is not just ant-incumbency. It is resentment against those candidates who were searching for political ground only with the support of promises. The people rejected them.
This wave of change also broke the circle of castesim and regionalism in politics. However, even though elections were held in those States where the BJP and the Congress were the main parties, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)

made every effort to make it a triangular contest. In Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the SP could not even open its account. The last time, the SP had got one seat each in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In Delhi and in Chhattisgarh too, none of its candidates could win. The BSP tally too came down to 8 seats from 17 seats. Both these parties are based on the same casteism and that is also where they are searching for their future. If we leave aside casteism and move towards regionalism, there too the voters showed a mirror to the parties fighting the elections on that basis. While campaigning for his party in Delhi, the Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar was asking for votes for his party, the JDU, by exhorting Delhi’s Bihari population to remember the soil of Bihar and the pride of Bihar. But when the results came, out of 27 JDU candidates, 26 lost their deposits. The Matia Mahal constituency from which the JDU candidate won has negligible Bihari voters. The Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has not even gone there to campaign. It is clear the voters voted not on the basis of ‘region’, but on the basis of ‘person’.
Anna Hazare has said from almost every platform and at every fora that if there is to be cleanliness and transparency in political parties, and they want to reclaim their lost lustre in politics, they will have to oust people with criminal tendencies. This time, the good thing in the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh is that there are 67 per cent candidates who are educated. Not only in Madhya Pradesh, this figure of educated MLAs is also highest in the States of Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh where assembly elections were held. In Madhya Pradesh out of a total 120 candidates of three parties – the BJP, Congress and the BSP, there were 77 candidates against whom serious criminal cases had been registered and all were defeated in the election.
In Delhi, there has been a reduction of 7 per cent in candidates with a criminal background. In the last elections 43 per cent (29 in number) MLAs with a criminal background had reached the assembly. This time it has decreased to 36 per cent (25 in number). Out of 94 candidates with serious offense against them, 74 were rejected. The Naxalite affected State of Chhattisgarh, from the point of view of criminal legislators, has emerged as the most healthy in the four States this time, with the lowest number of those with criminal backgrounds reaching the House. In these elections dynastic politics also got a rude shock. The sons and daughters of many leaders were defeated in the election. Political snobs and snobbery was snubbed. Sheila Dikshit’s name will be included in such examples.
This year in the month November there was to be a gathering in Allahabad University in which Anna Hazare and students from all Universities were to participate. Anna Hazare could not attend due to health reasons. In a letter to the office bearers of the University Students Union he wrote that ‘for a long time I have been saying that student power is nation power’. He wrote that in the past student politics had always provided a direction to central politics. But taking sides and parties had made them into their ‘pocket organisation.’ Students would have to free themselves from this, only then would there be a right direction and the importance of student politics would be established. Making this a basis, University students began a campaign. In the first week of December, the University election results came and except for a lone seat, all the party candidates and office bearers of the students union were defeated in the election and independent candidates attained victory.
In the shock factors responsible this time for the electoral results, the None of the Above (NOTA) option is also being added. However, before the elections, it was surmised that NOTA would remain just a symbolic form of protest throughout. Anna Hazare had said about the Supreme Court’s decision of provision of NOTA that it will be NOTA which will take us towards Right to Reject and Right to Recall. And that is what is happening. If NOTA is reviewed in the light of the legislative assembly election results, it clearly shows that the voters used it not only as a symbolic protest, but in many seats it was decisive in determining victory or defeat.
In four States, more than 16 lakh voters opted for NOTA. In many seats, the number of voters who opted for NOTA was more than the margin of votes between victory and defeat. In the case of 13 candidates in Chhattisgarh, there were more votes for NOTA than their margin of victory. This is also the case in Rajasthan at 11 seats. In 5 out of 8 seats at one place in Rajasthan NOTA was at number 3 in terms of votes. The voters on these seats, after BJP-Congress, pressed the NOTA button the most. In Madhya Pradesh, 6 lakh 43 thousand 144 voters used NOTA at EVMs and through postal ballots. It is noteworthy that in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the maximum use of NOTA was made, Anna had appealed during the course of his yatra that in the absence of a candidate of the people’s choice, they should use NOTA. On behalf of Anna, the Jansansad Campaign Committee had also started an awareness campaign about NOTA, and had to face opposition from the Government.
The people have now understood our democratic values in the real sense. This is the reason that the five States where elections were held recently have set new polling records. This time, in Madhya Pradesh the highest voting percentage was 72.52 per cent. In Delhi there was 66 per cent voting, with men and women in almost equal participation. In assembly elections of 2008 the percentage of voting was 57.58 per cent. In Rajasthan too there was historical voting at 75.20 per cent. Here women voters left male voters behind with the percentage being 75.51 and 74.91 per cent respectively. There was 77 per cent voting in Chhattisgarh.
So it may be considered that the country is not only consolidating on a political scale, but is also writing new postscripts. In the past two years, the entire country has been fighting for the Jan Lokpal and it is as a result of increasing political awareness that the Government is taking the matter seriously now. The significance of this change increases when it is realised that in the entire country on the path of change, during the movement – from its beginning till now — not a stone was thrown, the glasses of bus windows and doors were not shattered, curfew did not have to be imposed, nobody died. Because this change does not represent the culture of resistance. It is essentially a fight to achieve basic demands and these basic needs are enunciated in and part of our Constitution. Therefore, the country is asking for what it its right. It is the Constitutional path that Anna Hazare has always advocated and demanded should be followed for attaining goals and the major triumphs of this idea prove that his demands are hundred per cent just.
There is a churning of ideas going on amongst political parties. New posts, a new leadership and a makeover are being discussed. That is being done because they are also realising that new voices are now rising from the people and if they don’t change themselves, they will be changed. This analysis of what has emerged from within the electoral milieu proves that the people of the country are looking forward to positive change and have always been doing so. All that it has needed and needs is leadership. Whenever an attempt was made to change a rooted system, it needed a hero. Amongst the reasons cited for the failure of the 1857 struggle for freedom is that the fight lacked a hero.
In the current fight, the entire country is looking at Anna Hazare as the hero, and therefore Anna himself believes that ‘I am fighting the second war of independence and if martyrdom is required in this fight, I will be the first martyr.’ This whole context will have to be understood in the difference of the period in the country. Mahatma Gandhi, changed the country through his insistent appeal for truth. Nelson Mandela gave preference to humanity and suggested the path of harmony. Moving forward as a link in the same chain, Anna is getting established during this period in the country as a torchbearer of change. To strengthen society, let us provide more strength and support to this new messenger of peace.

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