Historical inevitability is a favourite catchphrase among Marxists. It describes situations and events guided by vast, impersonal, forces beyond the control of individuals. Anna Hazare’s arrest on Tuesday, too, had an air of inevitability. This time, though, it was manufactured by the Union government’s ineptness.
Hazare, along with some of his supporters, was arrested after he made it clear that he would proceed with his fast at the Jayaprakash Narayan Park in the Capital. Earlier, prohibitory orders banning assembly of more than four persons had been imposed in and around the park. This was the final step in a chain of events that could have been broken easily.
The first chance for the government to check matters was soon after Hazare and his team rejected the government’s version of the Lokpal Bill. They could have been called for a frank discussion and warned to desist from doing anything drastic. The time for firm action was then, not after the fast gained political traction. Along with this step, a communication strategy informing citizens why Hazare’s politics is unacceptable in a democracy would have gone a long way in taking the wind out of the activist’s sails.
None of this was done. All that could be heard were vitriolic statements by spokespersons and ministers. Instead of conveying an impression of a government in control, the dominant image was that of a corrupt and fearful government using its power to crush a crusader against corruption.
In contrast, “Team Anna” wove an impressive strategy using the media, mass outreach to citizens and use of whatever tools it could lay its hands on. It is one of the ironies of this situation that a “movement” that has weak democratic credentials has been pitted against a lawfully elected government.
Did this ineptitude create inevitability? Given the chaotic functioning of this government, it is tempting to conclude so. Look at the facts. Most government ministers involved in managing the situation hardly have the kind of experience or political acumen required to meet the challenge. But more importantly, the government’s actions betray its insecurity: Besieged by charges of corruption in high places and a revitalized opposition, it is making one mistake after another. Arresting Hazare— hardly a paragon of democratic behaviour—is the latest one.
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