By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO
NEW DELHI: In bits and pieces, the real stories linked with Anna Hazareâ€™s 13-day fast and his supportersâ€™ political background are gradually being revealed. Sources indicate that it was only a political game-show, including the fast, with corruption-issue deliberately selected to attract attention and target the central government. Medically, a person even half of Hazareâ€™s age cannot be on fast for almost a fortnight and yet remain active enough to address the supporters almost daily. The secret behind Hazare remaining almost â€œfitâ€ has nothing to do with his marital status, that of a bachelor. In reality, he was regularly kept on a liquid diet, particularly glucose. This â€œnewsâ€ was deliberately not leaked even by people aware about it as it would have punctured the hype being raised about Hazareâ€™s â€œfastâ€ before his â€œmissionâ€ was at least partly accomplished.
The real support for 13-day show at Delhiâ€™s Ramlila Maidan came from members of saffron brigade and groups associated with them. They were, for instance, taking care of cooking and providing food and drinks to people visiting Ramlila Maidan. In fact, free supply of eatables at the grounds prompted a percentage of visitors to be there and enjoy the food as a part of their picnic.
Though support of saffron brigade for Hazareâ€™s was known as an open secret all along, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) maintained a studied silence on this till the 13-day drama lasted. Now, the BJP and other wings of saffron brigade have openly revealed that their members were the key factions behind Hazareâ€™s movement. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief Ashok Singhal has openly asserted that his group was in involved in Hazareâ€™s movement against corruption. He said: â€œMembers of the Dharma Yatra Mahasangh, a wing of the VHP, had opened stalls at Ramlila Maidan to offer food to over 20,000 people every day.â€
Interestingly, while Arvind Kejriwal â€“ key member of Hazare team – has expressed â€œshockâ€ at Singhalâ€™s claims, he has also accepted being unaware of whether the persons taking care of food stalls belonged to any extremist group or not. â€œIâ€™m quite surprised, Iâ€™m shocked. Itâ€™s wrong, rather mischievous on Singhalâ€™s part to say such thing. He should not indulge in these things,â€ Kejriwal said. At the same time, he acknowledged: â€œSix-seven organizations set up food stalls. They demanded space (at Delhiâ€™s Ramlila Maidan) and we gave them. I donâ€™t know if one of them belonged to any political groups.â€
With the drama over, now, critics are also deliberating on the similarity between slogans used by supporters at Ramlila Maidan and members of Sangh Parivar. The slogan that has prompted many critics to question secular credentials of key supporters of Hazare-drama is â€œVande Matram.â€
Having succeeded in attracting attention of people, the Congress-led government and the media, the BJP now plans to gain political mileage from Anna-movement in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the state which is scheduled for assembly elections in less than a year from now. Elaborating on this, a BJP leader said: â€œThe reports of our various wings being with Annaâ€™s movements are true. The movement was a huge success against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.â€ Earlier, the party was not sure of the movementâ€™s popularity. â€œConfident,â€ after success in Delhi, the BJP plans to take forward Annaâ€™s movement in UP, according to Vinay Bahadur Pathak, UP unitâ€™s party spokesperson. With the public sentiment strongly against corruption, Pathak said: â€œAs the Congress at the center and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in UP are openly involved in various acts of corruption, we can certainly use the movement to our advantage.â€
The BJP has planned two major yatras (processions) in UP, which 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. â€œA week before the main yatra reaches a particular assembly constituency, the local units of the party will start smaller yatras. Since we will hold rallies in each assembly constituency, the smaller yatras will ensure the presence of a large number of people there,â€ Pathak said. The BJP has also planned 350 small yatras in UP, said the party vice-president, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. He is in-charge of assembly election management in UP.
Gradually, non-BJP leaders have also started speaking loudly about Sangh Parivarâ€™s backing of Hazare-drama. In words of Lok Janshakti Party president, Ram Vilas Paswan: â€œFormer RSS ideologue Govindacharya and leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have themselves been claiming that the crowd that had gathered at the Ram Lila Maidan comprised Sangh Parivar volunteers.â€ At the same time, he clarified that this does not imply all supporters of Hazareâ€™s anti-corruption movement are members of Sangh Parivar.
With BJPâ€™s political standing in UP a dismal affair at present, the party is apparently banking on the Anna-wave to turn the political tide in its favor during the coming assembly elections. It is as yet too early to state whether BJPâ€™s Anna-chant will succeed in UP or not. Nevertheless, as the party leaders are revealing their intentions, it is becoming clearer that the 13-day drama at Ramlila Maidan was a part of their political strategy with an eye on UP polls. The BJP and Sangh Parivar are all set to politically cash on this line of action, through yatras, for electoral gains in UP assembly elections!