What they should do with Anna
Eons later, we know this much: humans respond to reason. They may submit to force but they are content with reason. The worst thing the Centre could have done with Anna Hazare is to jail him. They’ve done that. We, the people, have all the time in the world to ponder the repercussions. But India, the nation, may be running out of time. The Hazare movement is full of portents and, therefore, those entrusted with governance might want to draw on restraint. Hazare and his seven followers can be brought out of Tihar jail any time. That’s no big deal. The problem is what to do after.
The government could have allowed the Hazare fast. The skies wouldn’t have fallen, the stock market wouldn’t have tanked on this and television channels would anyway have stayed with the story. A man on fast doesn’t look half as bad on television as a man in prison. After a day or two, the Centre could have sent a delegation to meet Hazare at the venue of the fast. They would lose nothing; they might have gained sympathy. This is how a normal government would respond in a normal situation. This, after all, is not the first Hazare fast nor is it the first government at the receiving end.
But when pressure seeps in, the mind can play tricks. When there’s no trust, the mind instinctively fears the worst. It is possible that the prime minister was told the fast is an insidious act intended to dethrone him and hurt the country. It would appear so if you believe so. And right now, the prime minister’s men seem to believe so.
Let’s say the Centre allows the fast and then sends a delegation to meet Hazare, they still would have parliament and a belligerent opposition to deal with. This is where they could’ve done the third thing. A team could talk to BJP seniors and make a deal to let parliament function. There’s much important work in parliament and it might occupy at least some news space. Now, everything’s going Hazare’s way.
They could then set a date to discuss the Lokpal Bill in parliament. They could even seek mediation from other NGOs, who might agree to talk to Hazare. All this is simple when there are no stakes. But now, everyone fears for their future in the government and Hazare and his team fear Singh has lost it. This is how it seems when trust is absent. Yet, there is much common in Singh and Hazare. Both are Spartans. Both have virtually no great personal income. Both have been largely thrust into positions of significance. Both have known individual hardship in the past. Both seek the welfare of the nation.
Vijay Simha is Executive Editor with Tehelka.com.