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.