By Prashant Sood, IANS,
New Delhi : How many politicians can muster the mass support Anna Hazare is getting across India? MPs differ on the issue, but admit it is his emergence as a symbol of India’s war on graft that has led to the nationwide solidarity marches.
The widespread backing for Hazare after his arrest here Aug 16 prompted Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley to comment that the street protests were of a scale that political parties may find hard to match.
Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) Basudeb Acharya said t it was Hazare’s non-political background and simple lifestyle that have helped him generate so much popular support.
Acharia said Hazare had taken up an issue that affects every Indian. “This is why there is this upsurge,” Acharya told IANS.
Madhu Goud Yaskhi, a Congress MP from Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh, said sympathy for the 74-year-old Hazare had grown because of unending coverage by television news channels.
It would be possible for political leaders too to get similar support if the electronic media were as liberal with them with airtime, Goud opined.
He admitted that the decision to arrest Hazare Aug 16 was a mistake and the move to lodge him in Tihar Jail was “a big blunder”. Both created more support for Hazare than he would have got otherwise.
Since Hazare launched his fast Aug 16, there have been large-scale demonstrations in his support all over the country, particularly in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Other cities and towns have also seen noisy protests with wide-ranging participation.
Samajwadi Party MP Mohan Singh said the support Hazare has received was not unprecedented and there had been occasions when political leaders had drawn massive crowds.
He also criticised Hazare for insisting that his version of the Lokpal Bill — called Jan Lokpal Bill — should be passed in this parliament session.
“He is converting satyagraha to duragraha (obducracy). Civil society members are not the only ones to be consulted on Lokpal Bill,” Mohan Singh told IANS.
Birendra Prasad Baishya, a Rajya Sabha member of the Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), however, felt it would not be possible for any politician to get so many people on the streets.
He said the reason for the large gatherings was that people were fed up with corruption and Hazare had become a symbol of resistance to a corrupt system.
“Hazare has got support from every part of the country,” Baishya said.
BJP MP Smriti Irani said that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had failed to address the issue of corruption properly and its actions had not generated confidence among the people.
“The outrage is normal… An environment of distress created by the government affects the outlook of people towards politicians,” she added.
Some critics of Hazare — Yaskhi included — claim that supporters of the BJP and its allied groups made up for a majority in the pro-Anna gatherings.
Hazare aides deny this, saying much of the participation comes from unattached middle classes and disadvantaged sections including housewives, bankers, traders, students, auto-rickshaw drivers, vendors et al.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])