Indian Decade

Hazare Takes on Advani

The distinguished social activist has struck out at the senior opposition leader. Will the clash escalate?

Earlier this month Indian political activist Anna Hazare took on the high and mighty of Indian politics and sent them scampering. He admonished Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar for being a part of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption that should be probing itself, and Pawar subsequently resigned from the group. He slammed Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal for casting doubts about on the Lokpal Bill, and Sibal retracted his comments. Hazare also took on yoga guru and supporter Baba Ramdev—and Ramdev later retracted his criticism of nepotism in the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal bill. Hazare has furthermore openly lambasted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and not a word of protest has come from either.

If a nationwide opinion poll were to be conducted today asking the question; ‘Who is the most powerful person in India today,’ everyone knows the popular answer would be ‘Anna Hazare.’ And it’s this Hazare who’s now taken on the most powerful and patriarchal figure of the Indian opposition: L K Advani.

Early last week, a mere day after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wrote on his blog singing paeans of the 73-year-old Hazare, Advani reportedly slammed the activist on his, without naming him. Advani joined the raging debate on whether Hazare's crusade against corruption helped the cause of democracy and criticized those who he said ‘revel in spreading a general climate of disdain about politics and politicians are doing a gross disservice to democracy.’ Advani also disagreed with the Hazare camp’s propensity to paint every politician with a black brush and commented: ‘Despite the short comings of Indian democracy we still have conscientious and upright politicians in the country and it is they who still give people optimism and confidence for the future.’

Hazare was quick to lock horns with Advani, even though the opposition leader had been careful not to name him specifically, and publicly stated: ‘What Advani has said is wrong. If politicians like him were on the right path we didn’t have to start a movement like this.’

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Judging by Advani’s fairly longish blog piece however, it seems the senior BJP leader on the contrary praised Hazare for his ‘disinclination to believe that all politicians are corrupt.’ On the controversial Lokpal Bill, Advani he also wrote: ‘My comment was: Let it be passed in that session. Even if the Bill is to be referred to the Standing Committee, it can be finalized and passed. Everyone is keen that there be no delay in tackling corruption. In fact Government should be conscious that the dimensions of corruption have become so frightening that the assault on this malady has to be multi-pronged.’

Advani also used this opportunity to describe the UPA II government as ‘the most corrupt government independent India has seen,’ and demanded that a meeting of political parties should be convened to discuss this issue particularly in the context of black money and curbing money-power in elections.

So will the rift between Hazare and Advani escalate any further? It seems unlikely, but only time will tell.