Social activist Anna Hazare is at it again: He is going to launch an agitation challenging the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over amendments in the Land Acquisition Act in New Delhi for a repeat of August Kranti 2011.
However 2015 is not 2011. There are a number of reasons why Operation Anna will probably not see similar success this time…
1. Middle class & TV: The 2011 movement was powered by the urban middle class and 24X7 TV news channels. Scams and corruption and Lokpal captured everyone’s imagination at that time. Opposing an ordinance that has made amendments to the Land Acquisition Act will definitely not capture the imagination of these two constituencies.
2. A popular government: In 2009, the Congress won and became so sure of victory in 2014 that hubris set in within the party. Then the Commonwealth Games scam rocked UPA2 and the skeletons started tumbling out of the closet.
Anna caught this trend early and even after his agitation, UPA2 was plagued by one scam after another. In 2011 Anna was targeting a highly unpopular government. Not so this time. The BJP is sitting pretty with 282 Lok Sabha seats.
This popular party has captured Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand one after another. Modi still has high popular ratings and events like US President Barack Obama’s spectacular visit are boosting goodwill.
While you may point to the Delhi polls, the BJP immediately did well in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh after that. They are still the favourites for Bihar Assembly elections later this year despite the recent political fiasco. There are rarely any takers for a people’s agitation against a popular government.
3. No scams so far: Anna is known as an anti-corruption crusader. The BJP’s biggest scam was the mining one in Karnataka. But since then the Reddy brothers have been banished and BS Yedyurappa sidelined within his own party.
The Modi government currently faces no major scams. Opposing amendments in the Land Act cannot make a full-fledged agitation. An example of this mood is that Congress allegations against BJP Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan barely made it to the front pages of most newspapers.
In the latest corporate espionage case, it is the Government which is cracking down.
4. The Kejriwal-Bedi factor: Arvind Kejriwal is today Chief Minister of New Delhi. Kiran Bedi raved and ranted against politicians, then joined the BJP and is politically dead. Kumar Vishwas was the voice of August Kranti but today is the voice of AAP. Shazia Ilmi has done party hopping too.
At that time August Kranti looked totally apolitical. Not so now. What will be the composition of the new Team Anna? Even if he gets a good team, will they be seen by the public as just wannabe politicians?
5. Anna endorsed Mamata: Anna lost the moral high ground the moment he officially appeared in an ad endorsing Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee for Prime Minister. Since then her party has been plagued by the Saradha scam and terror allegations.
So it appears that Anna’s not OK with politicians who have corruption allegations, but OK with backing politicians whose party subsequently had both corruption and terror allegations. Anna has lost credibility after that ad.
6. Anna versus Modi: In 2011 first P Chidambaram took on Baba Ramdev. Then Kapil Sibal was propped up. Rahul Gandhi was absent and Sonia always remains in the shadows. Manmohan’s Singh is King avatar had vanished and he was seen as a puppet again by that time.
Anna was briefly the tallest personality in India. Anna was more popular than Modi in 2011.Things have changed drastically since then. In 2015, Modi is supreme. In the clash of personalities, Anna is no match for Modi.
AAP has backed Anna but it seems silly because they are now the establishment. If Anna takes support of Kejriwal then he will be seen as political AAP versus BJP fight. If Anna totally blows AAP away, then he stands isolated in Delhi at least.
7. It is not even a year: The Indian electorate always gives a long rope to its leaders. The Congress ruled the Centre for 30 years at a stretch from 1947-77. Laloo Prasad Yadav got 15 years in Bihar.
When Anna launched August Kranti, UPA had been in power for a good 7 years. It makes no sense to attack Modi after he’s been in power for about 9 months.
8. Where is the rage? At the end of the day no logic matters if the people are angry. Anti-corruption street protests had started at the end of 2010 which Kejriwal capitalized by first getting Baba Ramdev and then Anna. Reports say that he had even approached former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
But where is the rage this time? Global oil prices are at a low and so is inflation. In fact the only people who are outraging about Modi all the time are journalists, communists, activists and Opposition leaders. Not the common people.
Anna will find it very difficult this time to make something out of nothing.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here