Anna Hazare: PR superstar?

September 2, 2011

So it has come to an end for now. A fast by a 74-year-old man sparked nationwide protests against the political class in the world’s largest democracy and forced a government, already suffering from graft charges, even further on the backfoot. While we are on the issue of sporting analogies, let’s ask ourselves, how many of the statements made in media and civil society, about the UPA government scoring own goals and making unforced errors, are justified?

To start from the top, a few days before Anna Hazare started his fast against the government’s reluctance to table his and his team’s version of a key anti-corruption bill, called the Lokpal bill, the government’s PR machinery made one blunder after the other.

It allowed a Congress spokesman to use rather strong language on TV against Hazare. And later statements on record by union ministers Kapil Sibal and Palaniappan Chidambaram did nothing to turn the tide of public opinion increasingly turning against the government at its inability to crack down on rampant corruption.

On the other hand, while Anna Hazare’s protest channelised the frustration of the Indian middle class, it certainly needed more than that to succeed. From the beginning, his close advisers, nicknamed “Team Anna” by the media, proved to be adept at handling public relations.

Just moments before he was detained by the police, Team Anna put up a video on YouTube with his message calling for nationwide agitation and for people to turn themselves in to the police. It was a PR coup, as by the same evening, thousands of people had gathered in protest in front of the Tihar Jail gates.

From then on till the fast ended, the ruling coalition stumbled and exposed itself as riven by a lack of leadership, indecision, poor judgement and out of touch with the concerns of a country of 1.2 billion people. This was maybe a chance for Rahul Gandhi to shine and be shown as bringing the situation under control. But in the end, his statement in parliament was certainly a case of “too little, too late.” Also, the government’s constant backtracking on its talks with Team Anna and contentious points in the bill, showed it to be fickle.

Team Anna called this a people’s movement and perhaps backed those claims. At the main protest venue in Delhi, everything from Anna Hazare caps and T-shirts, to daily “lectures” by Kiran Bedi on the various clauses in Hazare’s version of the bill, to updates on any meeting with the government being provided on stage, to the line-up of activists, writers, singers, movie stars et al. turned it into a people’s movement, a circus and a reality show, all rolled into one.

By all accounts, even their interaction with the media, including this correspondent, was very transparent. One usually got quotes and information when one needed it. In the end, if the aim of PR is to promote a brand, then one must admit that Team Anna did “Brand Anna” pretty well.


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The Appalling Financial Transparency Standards of Anna affiliated NGOs

Now that NGOs have attempted to engineer a revolution in this country for better transparency and accountability in the system, let’s have an insight to what actual standards they follow themselves. All the main characters in the Anna Hazare manage multiple NGOs. We review the financial standards of NGOs run by Anna Hazare; Arvind Kejriwal & Manish Sisodia and Abhinandan Sekhri; Kiran Bedi and the father-son duo, Shanti & Prashant Bhushans.

Read more: m/2011/09/appalling-financial-transparen cy.html

Posted by RajanAlexander | Report as abusive

Let’s take some humourous takes on Anna’s fast. I did one at

Posted by narnara | Report as abusive

Unfortunately primordial loyalties have become more important in taking a stand on Anns Hazare’s protest. Some section of educated elite have convinced themselves that because they are from Minority background,or supporters of the congress,or simply obsessed to have thier presence known (by being counter-revolutionary so that every body notices them. read Arudathi Roy!! Her views always has a anti-national stance and opposite to common sense, she must not have noticed her friend medha patkar is with Anna now) they think these protests are simply anti-congress. Nothing could be father from the truth. The movement is against a system which is deep down corrupt and callous.
Also, the protests were by far peaceful and non-voilent.
The leaders of the protest went and requested every consitutional institution before embarking on this fast. They requested the Political leaders, thrown PIL’s in courts, courted the media and when finally nothing worked they went on to open protests.
Moreover, It took 42 years and Lokpal was still not tabled, If not for protests do we really honestly think the government would have brought about an effective bill?
Equally, Is there anything wrong by the way for asking the Government to be more accountable to the money they pay through taxes from their hard earned money, moreso in times of huge inflation?
Has the Team asked to completely pass their own version? as the protests continued, they climbed down their position and asked only the spirit of janlok be visible in the bill they table before the house,is it wrong?
Do you think, peope like Lalu (who is charged in Chara ghotala’ and Amar singh who is charged in cash for votes scam)and Amar singh’s participation in standing committe will bring legitimacy to the house?
When Parliamentarians themselves go rowdy and behave like crooks inside parliament throwing chairs, mikes and whatever they hold on to and sit inside the well, raise slognas, pandemonium, constant adjournments,no serious debate in parliament regarding even crucial bills, has the parliament got moral authority to demand a Gandhian who is on a peaceful all sections encompassing fast to uphold constitution!!?!!

If the NGO’s funding isn’t legal they should be prosecuted and convicted.period.

Dont you see the timing of this sudden investigations on them as a threatening tactic and comparing the seriousness of the crimes where the polity of this country loots hunderds of crores every day (thats right, hundreds of crores without which they cannot run politics). If you got a criminal who is a pick pocketer and a criminal who is a murderer, whom would you apprehend first?
Are we Indians enough blind to see how foreign publications whose countries does not want to see any good to happen in India were most worried and propogated constitutionalism to India to disown this protests under spurious arguments.

Finally a hard hitting question to you. If the protests had been happening under the BJP ruled Government, wouldn’t you have suported the cause, might I add blindly?
The socalled pseudo-secularist bunch who take on Modi (yes it is correct to take on him and fight to last man) kept silent from the nation wide protest and when was the last time we have seen nation wide protests for a genuine reason. Let me assure you, if you were below 30 you weren’t even born then. The so called secularists strangely, who usually taken on secular and right causes for protest and sometimes even go voilent, disowned this public anger and called it middleclass elite?

Does the corruption actually affect only middle classes, i think it affects poor (Dalits and Muslims) more than anybody as entitlments are leaked out of the system.

These are questions to your conscience and I hardly believe that you can put these to your heart and question and get an honest answer. The Communlism bogey which was brain washed on the minorities go so deep that every national interest is subsumed by this cause and takes them to support irrational ideas in their desperation to support Congress! sad but this is the sour truth.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive

The thrust of this piece is only to grade the “brand” value of Anna Hazare not the significance of his anti corruption movement. This is a shame as every attempt in the past to rein in corruption has failed. It is clear that the present movement attracted nationwide support mainly because the size of the middle class has grown to reach critical mass. Morality, as George Bernard Shaw wrote is a middle class fixation, because the rich have no need for it, while the poor just cannot afford it !! In every society it is the middle class that has been at the vanguard of change. In India, despite the rapid economic growth of the past 15 years, corruption has increased by leaps and bounds. The ordinary citizen has to pay bribes at every step in every Government office to receive even the most basic services he is entitled to. Government servants, including those from the SC/ST and minority groups who were given their jobs to fill “quotas” set for them, have absolutely no compunction in fleecing the poor including those from their own SC/ST minority groups !!! So much for the empathy of the poor for their fellow poor !

It is this all pervasive nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and government servants that Anna Hazare targets and wants to hold to account. The Lokpal Bill is but the first step in addressing this malaise. No one is under any illusion that fighting corruption will be a long arduous task.

Posted by Espad | Report as abusive

Why Ford Foundation’s Footprint will continue to haunt the Anna Team

Ford Foundation pumped in nearly $28 million or on average of $ 7 million per year to over 90 organizations within the country during the period 2007-2011. Average ticket size of these grants was $ 304,677 or around Rs 1.4 crores per grantee.

NGO authority flows from public perception that NGOs are legitimate—that they somehow do represent the muffled masses, that their motives are good, and that they sacrifice their own comfort to help others. Now if the public has to resort to RTI to elicit information from Kabir a NGO who was one of the leading NGOs driving the Anna agitation; the legitimacy of an anti-corruption movement starts taking a hit!

Ford Foundation is no ordinary donor. Its link with the CIA is well documented, including information taken from sources from its own archives. For NGOs to accept Ford Foundation grants and avoid the perceived image of CIA agents, then NGOs should go beyond statutory requirements of disclosures. They should voluntarily and pro-actively adopt full disclosure standards that reveal all pertinent information to the accounts statement. This abject failure is probably why Anna NGOs are unable to shrug off their image as foreign agents and the image of their anti-corruption agitation as one bankrolled by Ford Foundation!

Read more: m/2011/09/why-ford-foundations-footprint -will.html

Posted by rajanalex | Report as abusive

Unless one is a complete idiot. Our Government’s links with CIA go down even more deeper than the Connection Ford has with CIA!! :-) so much for your discovery. The CIA knows and often lobbies,persuades,coerces and even rarely threatens Indian Governments on policy matters( especially the state governments through its lackeys in IMF, World Bank etc). The same link you posted here talks about Ford donating for genuine institutions but you didn’t seem to question it? Do you know that in India millions of dollars are donated to Christian organizations but they dont care who donates them but only focus on their work (eg: Education or medical care). Millions of devotees donate billions to dollars to Temples,Churches and other religious institutions without demanding anything in return. If you have any valid proof please kindly share with us. I think for you, its like shooting the messenger if you do not like the message. one can quetion Anna’s methods (I have given enough clarifications in my previous post as to why he had to take on such protest and its not for the first time and he is been protesting for decades now)
but one cannot discount the issue behind this protest.
If you do not like his face suggest somebody else like Abdul Kalam (he will look more secular for you perhaps) or sonia Gandhi or John Arbraham.
There could be differences in how to handle a protest or raise a voice, there could be opinions on what the piece of lokpal bill should be, or there could be opinions where we do not need it (but strengthening the current institutions) but there can be no second opinion on checking the deep corruption that has made the state ineffective and inhuman and anybody suggesting we do not check corruption is an anti-national.

By the way a Strong BJP Minister from karnataka Gali Janardhan Reddy was arrested recently on gruesome corruption charges. No need to control you smile on this piece of news. Rather we must all cherish it.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive

The idea that CIA behind Ford is even strange. If Ford is corrupt and anti-India Organization, it should fund kashmir seperatists right? or it should lobby for lowering taxes on automobiles or ask for less stricter emissions through its NGO’s? If ford is such anti-India organization why is it supporting Anna and trying to strengthen Indian democracy through his anti corruption movements ?why is it not donating to Arundathi Roy or Ali shah Geelani? why is it not donating to naxalites?
It should have donated or gifted the money to some minister who could provide some favours like Raja? why?
why to Anna? is it because Anna can bring down government, if so, do you think Indian Government is so weak and Indians fools of higher order to act upon its designs? for anybody who knows Indian politics, Governments wont resign even in Genuine case of failures, not for such trivial issues as corrupton (for them). People who shoot slingshots from behind the bushes should come out and make their stand clear on the issue of Corruption and suggest more Authoritative and honest leaders than Anna and we will sure to Grab him.
In any case Anna had become only a face and a catalyst for Indians expression of frustration over growing divide with political classes,its failure in reforming governance through its dismal performance of clean governance and inflation.
In democracies protests and movements ensure the resolution of long and festering problems. You can think of Britain. Iran used to support Irish Nationalists as Iran saw the disaffected youth from Ireland. while huge voilent protests erupted. Britain took to the task in improving its image, gave more political freedoms and e economic oppurtunities and absorbed Irish even more into their society. So even if Irans intentions were not right it only ended in strengthening British democracy.

Assuming ford is some malicious intentions, it may unknowingly end up benefitting Indian democracy just like Lord curzon,General Dyer with their malcious intentions ended up in arousing Indian peoples aspiration and the need for Freedom and Democracy.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive