This round of agitation by Anna Hazare and his followers, it seems, is headed nowhere unless something dramatic happens in the next couple of weeks.
For one, people’s response is less than enthusiastic. Most of those who are attending the fast at Jantar Mantar are outsiders. Many of them farmers herded from the neighbouring states just as politicians and political parties do for their rallies. The middle class and the netizens who were hyperactive on earlier occasions are missing from the scene. Whether the situation will change dramatically after Anna starts his fast from Sunday, as he has threatened to do if the government maintains its silence, is difficult to predict but as things stand now, the outcome of the fasting by his colleagues – Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and others – doesn’t appear very bright.
That is because two of their main demands are unlikely to be met anytime soon. Their first demand is a strong Lokpal. After Lok Sabha passed a bill to constitute Lokpal last December, it was sent to a select committee of Rajya Sabha because more 100 amendments were moved by the members of the upper house. Earlier, the same bill had been examined by the department-related standing committee. Select committee chairman Satyavrat Chaturvedi, from the Congress, has gone on record saying that the report will be readied only for the winter session, which will be held in November-December, a good four months away. Even if the government is keen it won’t be able to do much until this report is tabled and taken up for discussion in Rajya Sabha.
Team Anna’s second demand is to set up a special investigating team (SIT) to go into the allegation of corruption against 14 union ministers, including prime minister Manmohan Singh and law minister Salman Khurshid. No prime minister can agree to such a demand. This would mean fall of the government itself. That should explain the bizarre response of Khurshid who said let Team Anna approach the UN if it had no faith in the government and that the supreme court had already rejected all the charges being made. The second part of the statement is untrue, as Prashant Bhushan, a member of Team Anna and senior advocate, pointed out at the rally but that is beside the point.
A lot, therefore, will depend on how people react to Anna joining the fast. Soon after he ended his 12-day fast in August last year, his doctors had expressed concerns about his health and desirability of carrying out long fasting in future. Will he be able to do an encore? Going by the choice of the venue, Jantar Mantar, which can’t accommodate too many people for too many days at a stretch as Ramlila grounds can, it seems Team Anna may not have such a plan in the first place.