It’s ironical but true. It took a 74 year-old to mobilize one of the youngest nations (in terms of demography) in the world that too using the methodology of satyagraha which till the recent past was touted as being out of sync with modern India. In fact many felt “Gandhigiri” was more the "in thing". A nation that saw cricketers and movie-stars being identified as “youth icons” certainly was suddenly enamored by a Gandhian. The Sydney Herald calls him “The New Gandhi”, The Times quoted, “Anna Hazare: How One Activist Brought the World's Largest Democracy to Its Knees” and so on. After all it was unthinkable that a metro centric- mobilization would reach such humongous proportions. So, how did Anna manage to strike the chord?
While the reason for the success of this anti-graft drive could be many e.g. it was very well organized, had an experienced and well-prepared team but I would put that mainly to three major reasons:
The Issue: “Corruption is a necessary evil”- This had become a common adage amongst the Indians. Even though very few amongst us ever tried to do something about it, but it has been discussed at lengths in drawing rooms, news rooms or college forums. The CWG, the 2G, the IPL … the list is endless. Wasn’t graft related news too commonplace in the papers? Anna’s clarion call to root out corruption reverberated with the Indians who were now debating whether some forms of corruption should be legalized?
The Simplified Message: Lokpal bill or for that matter Janlokpal bill are pieces of legislation and not easy to comprehend even for well educated people. So how do you put that issue to the people? Well you can go about explaining the nitty-gritty of bill. But given the attention span of the people, it won’t be practical. The “Team Anna” found the most effective way by focusing on the outcome as that could be easily put across to the people. Thus terming their movement “anti-corruption” was an instant hit.
The Target: Massive mobilization has mainly featured the rural class but this movement started in the metros and targeted the middle class and yet assumed enormous proportions. Many factors worked (apart from the two listed above) in this successful targeting of the middle class. The guilt that the middle class has been living with (remember the middle class cynicism or “kuch nahi ho sakta” i.e. "nothing can be done" mindset), the team members be it Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, the size of the middle class (NCAER reports suggest that population earning above 1.8 lakh INR pa is now more than the section earning below 90,000 INR pa), increased usage of social media etc.
While Anna’s movement has managed to galvanize the nation especially the middle-class which was increasingly feeling left out by the political class but the bottom line is “Anna is just the ray of hope and the onus still lies with us.” We need to develop a culture where issues are debated rather than limit ourselves to be part of one-way communication which seems to be the norm. After all, isn't it surprising that our PM is yet to give an interview or questioned by Indian media after being in power for more than seven years? So speak up, debate, ask questions, write, blog, tweet as now even the educated are willing to listen.