Why, after all, are the Opposition parties worried ? There has been no change in their discomfiture, before and after Anna’s decision to float a political party. In contrast, the non-Congress Opposition in the times of Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan and in the times of V.P. Singh had welcomed a similar situation. Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan had
decided to keep the students and youth movement in Bihar away from political parties. He believed that if political parties jumped into the movement they would lead the movement astray. All the
political parties of that time used to pressurise Jayaprakash Narayan in various ways to give them an opportunity to join the movement but he
refused. After the Emergency, a special situation emerged in which all political parties wanted to contest elections and wanted Jayaprakash Narayan to campaign for them. Jayaprakashji laid a condition that he would campaign only when all the Opposition parties came together and formed one party. As a result, the Janata Party was formed. But even after the formation of the party, decisions were never taken as a party, but as constituent parties in an alliance. Consequently, the same Janata Party that had come to power riding on the back of the aspirations of the people was in disarray in just two and a half years.
The second situation came in 1987-88, when Vishwanath Pratap Singh became the centre of
politics. The Opposition parties or leaders were not ready to take him seriously nor were they
willing to hand him the leadership, but the people established him as a strong leader. By the end of 1987 it was established that the people deemed him to be the tallest leader and this pressure compelled many parties to form the Janata Dal. Here also the same story was repeated and vested interests brought Chandrashekhar and V.P. Singh face to face. In this case vested interests used Chaudhary Devi Lal very well. Both the governments – Janata Party and Janata Dal – had good policies, had good intentions, and wanted to wipe the tears of the people but both the governments collapsed midway. Those who had joined hands in the name of
the people got separated in the very name of the people.
Now after 22 years, another opportunity has come. In these intervening 22 years, the problems of the people have gone from bad to worse but there is a fundamental difference in the situation. In 1974 and 1987, no party that allied with the Janata Party and the Janata Dal was in the Government anywhere, with Karnataka being the sole exception, but now every political party is in power in one state or the other. That is why the same
intensity with which the Congress is opposing Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, all non-Congress parties are doing like-wise with the same fervor, because presently all governments are almost alike in character. The Centre and state governments – in which all political parties are included – believe that they are doing enough for the people but the people believe that nothing is being done for them.
The next 3 months will be months of churning for the country. In these 3 months not only will the faces of the political parties become clear, but people will also come to know the strategy of people like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. This is the time of the biggest challenge for Anna Hazare and his associates. If they repeat the same slackness that they showed last year, then there will again be a decline in the trust people repose in them. Anna Hazare and his associates are left – just left – with the sole option of going to the people without losing time and making them aware of their blueprint of bringing change in the country.
Perhaps this is the reason why all political parties are anxious and have opposed Anna Hazare’s movement in both its forms – the earlier non-political one and now in its political form. Political parties do not like Anna Hazare’s step perhaps because either they will have to be answerable to Anna Hazare’s promises to the people, or they will have to convince their supporters that whatever Anna Hazare is doing is anti-people. To understand this may be difficult for political parties.
These very political parties and erudite journalists who debate on the television were discussing that if the Congress is bad, if the BJP is bad, if the political system is bad, then who should the people vote for? And now that Anna Hazare has talked of providing a political alternative, they have all got unsettled. Many among these were under the impression that Anna Hazare would never make a party and the advantage of his movement would accrue to them. Anna Hazare’s movement dealt a blow to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. The advantage of his movement accrued to Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh. But this was a blind game. People did become more aware of their problems, especially corruption, but this awareness did not consolidate in favour of any one in particular. Now the political parties feel that no one is going to benefit from Anna’s movement, therefore all of them have started singing the same tune of opposition to the movement.
Now let us consider the question of the wisdom of Baba Ramdev. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) claimed and propagated that its cadres organised the movement of Anna Hazare, and its cadres also organised the movement of Baba Ramdev. Anna Hazare through his language, programmes and announcements proved that the RSS had spread this canard only to discredit him and take the credit for his movement. Now Baba Ramdev has to establish how close or otherwise he is to the RSS, the BJP and other political parties. Baba Ramdev is known as a political Baba; he has been photographed with all political leaders. He has relations with Rahul Gandhi, Advani, Mulayam Singh, Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Narendra Modi among others. To have relations is one thing, to have a political friendship is another. It is necessary for Baba Ramdev to clarify his political style, more so as the people of the country are very unhappy with the anti-people approach of the political parties. If he is able to convince people that his style and his promises are different from other political parties, then the people will trust him.
The next 3 months will be months of churning for the country. In these 3 months not only will the faces of the political parties become clear, but people will also come to know the strategy of people like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. This is the time of the biggest challenge for Anna Hazare and his associates. If they repeat the same slackness that they showed last year, then there will again be a decline in the trust people repose in them. Anna Hazare and his associates are left – just left – with the sole option of going to the people without losing time and making them aware of their blueprint of bringing change in the country; they must hold meetings in every district and appeal to the people who attend the meetings to go to the towns and villages and hold meetings there. For Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Manish Sisodia, this is an ‘agni-pareeksha’ – a test through fire. They will have to prove wrong the allegation that they are non-political people who do not know the political language, who do not know what political style is and who are bereft of thoughts and programmes. If Anna and his associates can prove that they can put across their message to the different classes of society especially Muslims, Dalits, backwards and the poor among all sections, then their victory will become less doubtful. To take steps towards victory, they will have to take today the decision to go to the people. But they are the ones who will have to take that decision.