As the country saw a mass movement during the Anna agitation over two years ago, it brought some hope for the masses reeling under a corrupt dispensation and struggling to survive in the face of many adversities. But team Anna was treated with disdain by the government, cosy in its majority, and with elections another 3 years away.
The so called Jan Lokpal Bill was dismissed as an attempt to bypass the parliamentary system and the constitutional setup. Some ruling party stalwarts even challenged the agitators to fight elections to prove their mass support and threw a challenge at them to cleanse the system from within if they thought it was rotten.
The government came up with its own version of the Lokpal which was rejected outright by Team Anna. However, under public pressure, Lokpal bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. Then came a long process of suggestions by members, a review by a select committee, and it seemed the bill was lost again, for the ninth time since 1967.
In the intervening period many more scams came to light. The government lost its face and was pushed to the wall on the issue of corruption. A few parties withdrew support from the government. The one time respected Prime Minister became a subject of ridicule and a favourite of cartoonists. Anna retreated for some time to regain his health after a long fast and ponder over the situation. Arvind Kejriwal took up the challenge to join active politics risking a rift from his mentor. While many followed Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi was one notable exception, who remained with Anna favouring a non-political movement.
Now, Arvind Keriwal has proved that he has got mass support in Delhi at least. What is going to happen to government formation is another story. Anna has started another fast for Lokpal. The government, with uncharacteristic alacrity introduced the modified Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha. The bill was passed, with all parties, except Samajwadi Party, supporting it. This is unprecedented. Is this is the combined effect of Anna agitation and AAP winning 28 seats in Delhi? Arun Jaitley correctly put it, tongue in cheek, as a result of “changed circumstances”. Obviously, the major political parties have understood that they can no longer dismiss popular agitations as extra constitutional and stop confusing their own opinions as people’s opinion.
However, one concerning development is the widening rift between Anna and Kejriwal. Now Anna seems to have accepted the present version of Lokpal bill (minus a few of his demands), but Kejriwal has his reservations. Some important elements in the congress party are trying to molly coddle Anna. I fear that the deep rooted malaise in present day politics and the way it operates, is taking its toll on both Anna and Kejriwal. Some forces – visible and invisible are trying to widen the differences between the two. Kejriwal is being dubbed an escapist and his reputation is at stake. He is also being called a political opportunist. Anna has probably reconciled with the situation and agreed not to confront the wisdom of elected law makers; and many other activists are also coming on board with him on the issue.
Even if Arvind Kejriwal agrees to form a government with support from congress, the government will always be on tenterhooks. Neither Congress nor BJP will lose any opportunity to discredit Kejriwal. Rejecting the offer and going for reelection may not improve AAP’s tally, as the others are now alert and will leave no stone unturned to win by hook or by crook. The voters also may have lost some steam. The government is probably trying to neutralize both the forces – Anna and Arvind - with one stroke of Lokpal.