Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Government sees Hazare as 'pawn' of Delhi's civil society activists

(Part of this report has appeared in the April 20, 2011 edition of DNA)

New Delhi: Prime minister Manmohan Singh told Anna Hazare at their meeting on March 5 that his suggestions for the anti-corruption law would taken on board and that he could interact with the cabinet committee formed for tackling the issue, according to sources close to the prime minister. Hazare was accompanied by Arvind Kejriwal, Swami Agnivesh and the father-son duo of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan.

Singh had told the Gandhian social activist that he will have to wait till the assembly elections in the five states --- Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Assam and West Bengal – got over and the meeting could take place in May as members of Cabinet committee were away on electioneering. It was also revealed that on March 28 Swami Agnivesh met Union minister for defense and one of the members of the cabinet panel dealing with corruption.

The perception in government is that the April 5 fast-unto-death by Hazare was preplanned and his group had made preparations for the event for months on. There is also the perception in government circles that Hazare is a 'pawn' of a certain group in Delhi and that was the main reason behind the confrontational fast-unto-death.

The source had agreed that failure in dealing with the fast initially was that “there was a little standoffishness” on the part of the government. He has also conceded that the Congress being the oldest political party in the country that “it was zealous of constotituional proprieties” and therefore there was a certain delay in forming the combined committee comrprising the Hazare-led group and the Cabinet members.

To the question whether Anna Hazare has stolen the Congress party's and the government's thunder on the issue of corruption, the disingenuous response is that neither Singh nor UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi are in the business of taking credit as far as far as the much-needed institutional reforms are being pushed.

Government insiders describe the awakened public mood against corruption as manufactured mostly by the television news channels, who have tried to project the few people who were around Hazare at Jantar Mantar in the capital as though they represented the whole nation.

The public pressure created as a result of this is being compared to the television channels' generated public frenzy with regard to the IC814 hijack to Kandahar in December 1999 and which resulted in the release of five deraded terrorists.

It looks like the government wants to have it both ways – take credit for the committee which has now been formed for the drafting of the Lokpal bill while blaming the methods adopted by Hazare and his associates to muscle their way into the committee.

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