- Mom stabs 2-year old girl in head with scissors during tiff with hubby
- Soccer: I got carried away with QPR, says ’naive’ Fernandes
- Opposition agreed to hold peaceful gatherings but did opposite - Zahid
- AirAsia may order 50 more Airbus jets - CEO
- WHO to help Saudi Arabia investigate coronavirus before haj
- Elizabeth Taylor’s first wedding dress up for auction
- Five dead as police helicopter crashes in Venezuela
- Patient falls from ambulance and dies in Brazil
- Paul Low resigns as Transparency International Malaysia president
- TV News Twitter account hacked by Syrian Electronic Army
- Malaysian couple joins Aussie's billionaire club
- English player charged with betting breaches
- 18 hurt in shuttle bus crash near US airport
- Giant Lego Star Wars X-Wing lands on NY's Times Square
- Chile blocks world’s highest mine project More
Anti-graft fighter goes political, but will he win?
INEVITABLE SWITCH: Anna Hazare's decision to convert his movement into a political party confuses his middle-class supporters
BY announcing a political party with an eye on elections after calling India's entire political class corrupt, anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare has followed the dictum: if you can't beat them, join them.
This is unfortunate. Corruption remains to be combated. Converting anti-graft movement into a party is bound to distract from the primary goal.
This has divided the movement, and confused its mainstay, the politician-bashing middle class that sees Anna as a saviour.
The switch was inevitable and was coming. Some Team Anna members have long wanted to go political and contest elections. One of them, former law minister Shanti Bhushan, told me this a year ago.
Apparently unable to rein in those who want to go political, Anna disbanded Team Anna, with a warning. The anti-graft movement will now take a new shape.
Ending his indefinite fast on Aug 3, Anna said: "It is another two years to go to the polls. We have to go to the people throughout the country in the next one and a half years. Why waste time on fasts?"
The fasters lost nerve and patience with dwindling crowds and media support, when the government too refused to engage them on their main demand of a bill to enact a watchdog (Lokpal).
Having already met them half-way to frame the bill and pushing it through parliament's lower house, though not the upper house, the government, like any other under pressure, procrastinated.
Team Anna, with visions of bringing the government to its knees, if not oust it, failed to cope with it.
With his new move, Anna has allowed the government a walkover and a reprieve. The political class has a debutante, high on virtue, but low on experience.
Uncertain or politically coy, given opposition from many supporters, Anna has promised a "political alternative". But for any such move for the elections, he would need to form a party.
Alternatively, he could field independent candidates with a good image anointed and controlled by him: a party in everything but name.
Hundreds of parties are registered with India's Election Commission. They all have to conform to electoral laws and operate within an electoral system that, critics say, breeds corruption.
Who will finance Anna's party and how? The Indian elections are expensive, compelling use of unaccounted money. T.S.R. Subramaniam, a former cabinet secretary, says a party needs between Rs5 billion (RM282 million) to Rs10 billion to contest an election nationwide.
Anna wants village bodies to fund his party. His movement has raised millions before, but not for a political cause. It might succeed, given middle class support and the corporate sector's penchant for playing safe, in funding several candidates.
However, the financier and the voter are both accustomed to political parties that can win. The Indian constitution does not even mention them, but rightly or otherwise, parties have worked the governments and legislatures.
Non-party independents do not easily get elected. They rarely hold office. The likes of industrialist Naval Tata, India's first military chief Gen Cariappa and cricketer "Tiger" Pataudi had lost their securities in parliamentary polls.
The coming months will be crucial for Anna and his group. It will have to be clear about its political ideology. Slogan-mongering, name-calling and certainly fasting will not do.
Anna's teammates have a high regard for their opinions. Their use of vitriol in public discourse may soon be countered once they come down from the pedestal.
They must navigate the various facets of a political existence -- from choosing allies to dealing with politicians with or without "good character", as Anna puts it. They would need to tackle those politically ambitious within their ranks, having no public life experience.
Anna denies it, but his tirade is reserved for the Congress and its select allies. It will be interesting to watch how he tackles the opposition parties that opportunistically and tactically sympathised with him earlier.
Anna has promised a "secular" party. What will be his relationship with the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? Or with high profile yoga guru Ramdev, whose presence militates against religious minorities?
He has to exorcise demons within his fold. His supporters include all -- socialists, "Hindutva" protagonists and secularists. Keeping the flock together is never easy. If Anna fails, he gets sidelined and his name could be misused by those who capture the movement.
Due to his limited vision, Anna could attract criticism as he goes political, even if he does not contest election or seek office.
Anna's proposed party promises to be an uncertain factor in the 2014 elections. Till then, he is sure to hog the limelight, thanks to an angry middle class that sees itself as a blameless victim of corruption and television's insatiable need to get eyeballs.