How Anna movement gave birth to two probable CMs Kejriwal and Bedi, one PM Modi and one crusader Ramdev

Aditya Menon
Aditya MenonFeb 09, 2015 | 15:27

How Anna movement gave birth to two probable CMs Kejriwal and Bedi, one PM Modi and one crusader Ramdev

The fact that the Assembly elections in Delhi have boiled down to a battle between Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi only bears testimony to the success of the 2011 Anna Hazare/Jan Lokpal Bill agitation, of which the two were key protagonists. But with both of them claiming to be Anna's true heir and accusing the other of betraying the Lokpal cause, there is a need to revisit the agitation that changed India's political discourse and Delhi's political landscape.


The RSS angle

Perhaps the first person to allege that the Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement was an RSS conspiracy was Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh. Singh maintains his charge even to this day. So when Bedi and Shazia Ilmi joined the BJP, Singh made a number of "I told you so" statements. Singh perhaps can be blamed for being a little too simplistic. Even if the RSS backed the movement, there is no denying that the anti-corruption plank, more specifically the need for a lokpal, struck a chord that drove many otherwise neutral, apolitical people to join in.

But it is also clear that many individuals who joined the Anna bandwagon, saw the movement as a means to discredit the Congress and bring the BJP to power. No one exemplifies this more than Baba Ramdev. His agenda became evident when he actively campaigned for the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections and conveniently forgot about the black money issue after Narendra Modi became the prime minister. Another person in this category seems to have been Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose close aide Mahesh Giri contested and won the Lok Sabha election from East Delhi on a BJP ticket. Even general (Retd) VK Singh who had made a special appearance in the movement, ended up in the BJP and is now a Union minister. 


If this report in Indian Express is to be believed, the seed of the movement was sown in a meeting held a few months earlier in the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), then headed by present NSA Ajit Doval. The foundation, along with with RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya's Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan, organised a seminar on corruption and black money that was attended by both Ramdev and Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. At the end of the two-day seminar, an "anti-corruption front" was formed with Ramdev as patron and Govindacharya as convenor. The members included Doval, RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy, Bhishm Agnihotri, who was India's ambassador-at-large during the NDA regime, and Prof R Vaidyanathan of IIM-Bangalore, who co-authored a BJP taskforce's report on black money along with Doval and Ved Pratap Vaidik. The two-page statement at the end of the seminar said that Ramdev had declared an "all-out war on corruption and that the front would announce immediate actionable programmes and reach out to like-minded anti-corruption organisations, institutions and individuals". Soon after the seminar, Hazare's fast began, and in April end, Ramdev announced his June 4 Ramlila Maidan protest on black money.


Kejriwal's guerrilla warfare: From Anna to AAP

Kejriwal's ability to shrewdly change strategies makes him one of the most difficult politicians to understand. He engages with the extreme left and the far-right, with Hindu godmen and Muslim clerics, but ensures he doesn't get associated with either side. As a social activist, Kejriwal rubbed shoulders with the more pro-Congress activists like Aruna Roy but he also co-operated with the RSS subsidiary Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Read this report to know about the six phases in Kejriwal's evolution from a social activist to a mass politician.

Few would deny and even Bedi would admit, albeit privately, that Kejriwal was the brain behind the Anna movement.  But in organising the movement, was Kejriwal using the RSS or was the RSS using Kejriwal? There is no way we can find out. What we do know, looking at how the movement subsequently unfolded, is that Kejriwal refused to act according to the VIF/RSS script. In the second phase of the agitation, a visible manifestation of this was the manner in which the Bharat Mata ki Jai slogan was underplayed and the Bharat Mata in the backdrop of the dais was replaced by Mahatma Gandhi. But Kejriwal's main departure from the script was his decision to form a political party  on October 2, 2012. This is where the Hindutva strategists realised that their interests collided with those of Kejriwal. By forming a party, Kejriwal was staking claim to the very anti-Congress vote that was supposed to bring the BJP back to power. And the 2013 assembly elections in Delhi, which should have been a cakewalk for BJP had it not been for the AAP, proved them right. Another trend accompanying this development was the steady departure of right wing elements from the anti-corruption movement and the entry of more left-liberal figures, most notably Yogendra Yadav. Yadav's ideas were instrumental in developing what is today the most exciting force in India's politics: the Aam Aadmi Party.  "The group has moved from being a one-issue movement to a broader vision," Yadav had said said after the formation of the party.

The left-ward turn was also evident in Kejriwal's initial moves after the AAP's formation: attacking hitherto sacrosanct targets like Robert Vadra and Mukesh Ambani. According to Yadav, "The reason to pick up one person is to demonstrate a systemic feature".

When Bedi and Kejriwal fell apart

Bedi was an active part of the first two agitations on the Jan Lokpal issue in 2011, first in Jantar Mantar in April 2011 and the second in Ramlila Maidan in August that year. The failure of the Mumbai Anshan in December that year created dissatisfaction in the team. Kejriwal favoured a move towards politics, Bedi didn't. She also objected to Kejriwal's attacks on the BJP. Bedi's belief was that the movement must cooperate with the largest opposition party on the issue of corruption. Bedi wasn't a "BJP agent" like Ramdev that the AAP is making her out to be, but it was evident that Bedi disliked the Congress much more than the BJP, for whatever reasons. So when Kejriwal decided to form a political party, an act that would harm the BJP, it was clear that Bedi would have nothing to do with it.

Team Anna sowed the anti-UPA seeds, Modi reaped the harvest

One of the most insightful articles that came out during the Anna Hazare agitation was written by senior journalist Bharat Bhushan in Mail Today. Predicting that the movement will lead to the yearning for Bonapartist leadership, He writes:

"Would it be wrong to see Anna Hazare fast-unto-death as a dress rehearsal for things to come?...It is quite possible that a more charismatic leader might emerge over time who successfully projects himself as being above politics. And unlike Hazare, he may be able to combine parliamentary politics with his own extreme agenda... The rallying cry of such a leader can be anything woolly-headed and amorphous - it could be 'self- respect', ' nationalism', ' national character', or 'development with dignity'.

This article was published on April 16, 2011. But it almost predicts Modi's dramatic ascent as India's prime minister three years later.

Political movements are complex. They are brought about by coalescing of different, even contradictory forces, for a specific cause. And the political order they give birth to, often has very little to do with the ideals behind the revolution. The French Revolution eventually culminated in the authoritarian person-centric leadership of Napoleon. The 1917 Revolution in Russia and the 1979 Revolution in Iran were carried out by a broad coalition of political forces but in the end the most organised among those forces, Bolsheviks in Russia and the Ayatollah Khomeini-led Shia clergy in Iran, ended up capturing power. More recently, we saw how the protests in Egypt during what came to be known as the "Arab Spring" culminated in the election of the Muslim Brotherhood. Though not as revolutionary in scale or impact, the Anna Hazare movement has followed a similar pattern as these revolutions.

History shows us that the first target of post-revolutionary authoritarian governments are the protagonists of the revolutions that helped them capture power.

Now with with Bedi joining forces with Modi, the main beneficiary of the movement, against Kejriwal, the Anna revolution has entered the phase of fratricide.

Last updated: February 09, 2015 | 15:27
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