Whether he is a simple man or a simpleton is hard to tell, but it is undeniable that Anna Hazare’s words and actions leave everyone confused. If he knows what he is doing, he ought to take at least his followers into confidence. On Wednesday, he was supposed to address a public rally in New Delhi organised by the Trinamool Congress, where the party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was to be the only other speaker. At the last minute, he went missing. Poor Banerjee was hard put to explain Hazare’s absence. The few hundred who had gathered in the huge Ramlila Maidan were disappointed. Banerjee bravely tried to hold their attention, offering excuses for Hazare’s absence as also for the thin audience. It was clear that she was mighty miffed with the social activist. Apparently, the real reason why Hazare decided to skip the rally at the last moment was the poor attendance at the Ramlila Maidan, though his aides said that he was unwell. He was in Delhi all right, but did not stir out of the Maharashtra Sadan despite urgent entreaties by senior leaders of the TMC. Is this the way self-styled Gandhians behave? Having consented in advance to address the joint rally with Banerjee, Hazare ought to have kept his word. It is another matter that his belated endorsement of Banerjee for prime ministership is equally inexplicable. When and why he developed a fondness for the West Bengal maverick is unclear. Again, for someone who claims to be above the political fray, who has consciously shunned divisive party politics, his sudden sponsorship of Banerjee for the top job has rightly raised questions. Given that he disapproved Arvind Kejriwal’s foray into politics, given that he continues to advertise his distaste for party politics, his endorsement of the West Bengal Chief Minister for the prime ministership needs to be explained. Unless this too reflects Hazare’s haphazard actions, which need not signify anything much. The simple-minded Gandhian from Ralegan Siddhi, who only shot to fame in 2011 thanks to a great media spectacle created by Kejriwal and Co., seems to be boxing far above his weight. Without a clever mentor and, shall we say, manipulator like Kejriwal, Hazare’s limited vision and world-view should ideally keep him confined to the couple of Maharashtra districts which had hitherto served as his `karambhoomi.’ He has done some good work in those districts and must be commended for his services. However, his anti-corruption zeal has failed to curb corruption of the ruling Congress-NCP coalition. It would help if he worked to weed out the corrupt and criminal elements from the state polity. Instead of seeking a national platform, instead of looking for the old high, the television high, that is, of 2011, Hazare should come back to terra firma and seek a role commensurate with his own limited appeal and intellectual horizon. It is clear that he reached out to Banerjee in search of national headlines. Now that the love affair has gone sour, and Banerjee is seething with anger, Hazare should repair to his home turf and do what he can to rid the society of its multifarious ills and shortcomings.

The AAP hypocrites

The arrival of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal in Mumbai grabbed national headlines on Wednesday for the wrong reasons. The drama at Churchgate station and the ride in a three-wheeler was meant to boost the Kejriwal stock among the people. Instead, the resulting chaos and rowdyism caused a lot of inconvenience to Mumbaikars. It was clear that the relative success of AAP in the Delhi Assembly poll had attracted a lot of people to seek their fortune in the new party. All manner of people have made it their home, including highly ambitious journalists, income-tax thieves, bank loan defaulters, pure criminals, et al. The one-issue party without a structure and a programme to call its own is playing to the gallery, without looking at itself in the mirror to see its own warts, which, by the way, are so huge that they are now being noticed by the same media,
which not long had made Kejriwal a household name. The more the AAP tries to increase its footprint, the more it stands exposed as yet another party competing with the old parties on the old terms on which politics had been played all along. Nothing has changed, except the
rhetoric. Even Kejriwal fails to answer for some of his own questionable actions, pretending to be pure as the driven snow, whereas the fact is that he too has got feet of clay, misusing NGO funds and protecting corrupt friends and
colleagues. So, what is new? Nothing really,
to tell you the truth.

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