Hazare-drama with Saffron Support!

Even though the saffron brigade’s support for Anna Hazare’s “show” at Ramlila Maidan was an open secret, the BJP and other groups linked with Sangh Parivar refrained from making too much noise about this, while it lasted.  Though, as Hazare claims, he has not yet totally called off his fast, but only put it on hold, now gradually greater attention is being given to the real drama that was actually being staged at Ramlila Maidan. Sources indicate that Hazare’s fast was a farce as he was kept on a liquid diet, including glucose. While the “fast” lasted, this “report” was not leaked as it would have reduced the “news-value” of Hazare’s anti-corruption show even before his supporters had claimed and celebrated their victory.

 With this part of Hazare-drama over, the BJP and other wings of the saffron brigade have begun planning their next line of action. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief Ashok Singhal has claimed credit for supply of food to people at Ramlila Maidan. “Members of Dharma Yatra Mahasangh, a wing of the VHP, had opened stalls at Ramlila Maidan to offer food to over 20,000 people every day,” he said. Please note the timing of his statement. It was made after Hazare’s show at Ramlila Maidan was over and he had broken his “fast.” Singhal refrained from making the same claim earlier as he probably did not want to take the risk of dissuading secular Indians from extending their support to Hazare.

 Paradoxically, while members of Hazare-team have expressed “shock” at Singhal’s claims, as apparently they don’t want their names to be linked with extremist groups such as VHP, they claim to have no knowledge of the groups which did set up food stalls at Ramlila Maidan. On this, Arvind Kejriwal - a key member of Hazare team - said: “Six-seven organizations set up food stalls. They demanded space (at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan) and we gave them. I don’t know if one of them belonged to any political group.”

With due respect to whatever the linkage of Hazare and his core (anti-corruption) team be with Sangh Parivar, BJP is all set to cash on a similar line of action for gains in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. The state is scheduled for assembly elections in less than a year from now.  The BJP and Sangh Parivar are apparently confident that “success” achieved in Delhi and several other parts of the country will be repeated in UP. Here, it may be noted, they are presumably measuring success by the media-attention their Ramlila-drama secured, the crowd gathered there and the government being compelled to give some importance to Hazare’s demand. The government held a special parliamentary session to discuss Hazare-team’s demands, following which a “sense” of the Parliament was conveyed to the Standing Committee scrutinizing the bill. The much-talked-about bill is still not near the stage of being voted upon in the Parliament. In other words, the government only created the impression of having yielded to Hazare’s demands, celebrated as a victory by his supporters, when in reality such a step has not been taken. Nevertheless, BJP is apparently also measuring Hazare’s success by this move of the government.

 It wouldn’t be a surprise if BJP succeeds in gathering a great crowd for the yatras planned in UP also. After all, comments coming from BJP leaders suggest that even in Delhi, people associated with Sangh Parivar came out in huge numbers to support Hazare. This does not imply that everyone supporting Hazare was linked with Sangh Parivar. There is, however, no denying that BJP aims to turn this political tide in its favour. As expressed by a BJP leader: “The reports of our various wings being with Anna’s movements are true. The movement was a huge success against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.”

The BJP’s next agenda is to take forward Hazare’s movement in UP. “As the Congress at the centre and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in UP are openly involved in various acts of corruption, we can certainly use the movement to our advantage,” according to BJP’s UP leader, Vinay Bahadur Pathak.

The BJP has planned two major yatras and 350 small yatras in UP. The major yatras will be flagged off from Mathura and Varanasi on October 13. They will culminate in Lucknow on November 21 after traversing most parts of the state. “A week before the main yatra reaches a particular assembly constituency, the local units of the party will start smaller yatras, which will ensure the presence of a large number of people there,” Pathak said.

Now, against this backdrop, it is yet too early to label the 13-day drama at Ramlila Maidan as a purely anti-corruption move. Rather, as political cards are being exposed, it is becoming more and more obvious that this show was more of a dress rehearsal ahead of the political strategy being worked upon by Sangh Parivar for electoral gains in UP and beyond.