They all fall apart
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Last year, when lakhs of people wearing "I am Anna" caps and waving the Indian flag jammed the streets of New Delhi, sections of the media hailed India Against Corruption (IAC) as the "second freedom struggle". Today, the masses are missing and the tidal wave of media approval has receded as swiftly as it rose. Participants and observers sympathetic to the campaign feel sheepish, frustrated and let down. Anna Hazare has retreated to his home state Maharashtra and split with Arvind Kejriwal. What caused this collapse?
Post mortem reports of the IAC campaign tend to blame three chief factors: the disarray among the campaign's leadership, the stalemate manoeuvred by the government, and the fickleness of media support. Regarding the first, it is certainly true that Team Anna has fractured sooner than expected. While it was clear from the start that its members differed from each other in their political ideology and approach, last year it seemed as if the unity forged by the campaign's momentum would be sustained for some time. Indeed, at the height of the campaign, the differences themselves seemed complementary, combining the strengths of Anna Hazare's personal charisma, Prashant Bhushan's links with mass-based groups such as the National Alliance of Peoples Movements and Arvind Kejriwal's experience with urban NGO activism. But the political potential of these strengths dissipated before it could be realised, thanks to publicly conducted quarrels and statements made at cross-purposes. Most important, Team Anna failed to transform its massive mandate of public support into a coherent and coordinated programme of action. The Jan Lokpal Bill platform became a free-for-all, from Baba Ramdev to Swami Agnivesh, the Sangh Parivar and socialists, upright bureaucrats and retired generals, elbowing each other for greater prominence. In its desire to embrace all comers, the campaign could not forge a clear-cut identity or pursue a focused strategy, as seen in its recent floundering on the issue of joining electoral politics. Its leadership has fallen apart.
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