Revealing confusion and impatience in equal measure, Anna Hazare and his band of self-styled do-gooders have dropped large, king-sized hints of turning their nascent social movement into a political one, as early as the end of the day, today, after the end of their farcical “fast-unto-death”. After the media blitzkrieg last time, the attention was beginning to wane and the group realised that it was approaching the outer limits of santimony, especially after the Congress-led UPA government refused to play ball this time round.
The lawyer Prashant Bhushan has announced a “referendum” among “Team Anna” fans on whether the group should make the dive into politics, and all it requires for such a momentous decision to be made is a simple “Yes” or “No” on the India Against Corruption website. And this, just hours after their fasting compatriot Arvind Kejriwal had announced from a horizontal position to TV reporters that there was no, repeat no question of the movement turning political.
In getting off their high horses and dipping their feet in the political waters, Team Anna has shown an admirable ability to get their hands dirty in the hurly-burly of politics. But, at the same time, it shows a touching naivette about politics and realpolitik in a landscape littered with social activists who have met their comeuppance at the hustings.
Corruption is certainly a big issue facing the nation, but is it the only one in a vast pluralistic nation facing even bigger issues of poverty, malnutrition and worse? Can a party resonate across the nation only on the issue of corruption? Is Team Anna the only repository of integrity, especially when they are dealing with the likes of Vilas Rao Deshmukh and Baba Ramdev, and when its team members themselves face charges and insinuations?
Above all, will Team Anna—an urban, largely middle-class pheonmenon—be able to turn the SMSes into actual votes at the EVMs? Or in joining politics, will the USP of Team Anna disappear?