By Amrita Roy:
It hadn’t even been a week since Arvind Kejriwal had resigned from the CM’s post in Delhi, when Mamata Banerjee held a joint press conference with Anna Hazare. While the relationship was absurd to say the least, it was rather shocking to see the man who had openly bashed his most faithful disciple for entering politics now sit by the leader of an established regional party. However, all seemed well between the two leaders. Anna Hazare had got a reply to his 17-point agenda, and Mamata Banerjee had found a bolster for her national dreams. He went on to say that Banerjee is the “best CM in the country,” and would back her as a Prime Ministerial candidate as well. In that meeting, it was established that Anna Hazare would campaign for Trinamool Congress along with Mamata Banerjee. Many rallies had been planned in different cities across the nation, including one in the BJP bastion, Ahmedabad.
Soon, minor differences began to crop up. Hazare retracted from his words. His new position was that he supports Banerjee but not any political party. “I will not support any party, even after 2014 elections. I just want to serve my country and will support anybody who makes similar efforts, but will not support any political outfit,” he said. TMC didn’t see an issue with this shift in position and didi’s first rally outside West Bengal was planned in Delhi. She reached the Ramlila Maidan, the place where Hazare had staged his historic 288 hours of fast unto death in 2011. The symbolism could be hardly missed. And then came the shocker: Anna Hazare did not show up! Mamata Banerjee was left to put on a brave face in front of a thousand odd crowd. Both Anna Hazare and the TMC attempted to remain cordial after the failure of the rally. Hazare claimed he was suffering from a very bad throat infection and the TMC reiterated the same. But since when was cordiality a part of Indian politics? It was only a matter of time for the barrage of blames to start.
An angry Mamata Banerjee claimed that this wasn’t her rally. “This was organised by Annaji. I left important work in my state to come to Delhi only because he invited me. I kept my promise. We did not plan this meeting. When we plan meetings in Kolkata, we gather 50 lakh people. If I wanted, I could have got a train full of people to the rally” she added. Anna Hazare went ahead further with the mud-slinging. “I kept checking. At 11, I found out there were only 2,000-2,500 people at the rally, even at 2 0’clock there was no crowd — not even 4,000 people came. I thought something is amiss if the place that had been full of people for 12 successive days has no crowd. There were no people and they were calling me. This the dhokhadhadi,” He went ahead and put the blame squarely on Santosh Bharatiya, who was instrumental in creating this relationship. The death knell on this alliance was rather obvious. All the other national campaigns were cancelled and TMC chose to refocus on West Bengal.
When Anna Hazare was attempting to introduce his pet project, the Jan Lokpal Bill into the parliament, Didi had blatantly objected it. Even in the recent Sahara chit fund scam, many of her top officials have been accused of corruption. This relationship would result in his credibility being gravely compromised as anti-corruption has been Hazare’s only strength. Mamata Banerjee on the other hand, might have wanted to capture the media space that AAP occupies currently with her anti-Congress and anti-BJP pitch. And to do that, she hurriedly assumed that having Hazare as her party’s mascot would fetch electoral benefits on the national level. While all political parties have used similar tactics in the past, the reasons that may have prompted Anna Hazare into supporting Mamata Banerjee are far more startling. The official reason is that Anna Hazare supported her because of her humble way of living while being a Chief Minister and her struggle for the social causes of the poor working class. Yet this support could also be seen as a desperate attempt to stay relevant and occupy people’s mind space. If anything, his rallies and protests have gathered lesser supporters over the past few years. People have begun perceiving him as more of a talker rather than a doer, especially with him accepting Congress’s version of the Jan Lokpal which was much weaker than what he had proposed. When Arvind Kejriwal formed the Aam Aadmi Party, Hazare had spared no opportunity to backlash against Kejriwal for entering the ‘dirty world of politics.’ Yet in a recent interview, Hazare has said that he too has political ambitions for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Jantantra Morcha is an organization that was started by Anna Hazare and he hopes that it “will be able to get nearly 100 candidates by then who are honest and will be ready to serve the nation,” by 2019.
The question that arises by default: was supporting Mamata Banerjee a launch pad for Anna Hazare’s 2019 political plans? All this happened in a very short time span of a month and probably won’t be remembered as anything significant. But this incident raises further questions over the relevancy and morality of politics in our country as one and all are willing to backtrack from their words for political gains.