Ranjona Banerji: Anna movement reaches its predictable end

03 Aug,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


The news was quick to jump on India’s new Union Home minister after a series of bomb blasts hit Pune the day Sushil Kumar Shinde was appointed. In a revealing interview with Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN, Shinde exposed himself as a “family” man and also attributed his political success to his Dalit caste. These are just the kinds of things a new India does not want to hear. Even worse, he then went on to say that he had been an “excellent” power minister – this on the day that North and East India reeled under power blackouts for the second consecutive day.


Fortunately for Shinde and his possible short-comings – and also therefore for the UPA government – escape came from what has been the top news story, especially on television: the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement.


Two days ago, Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami had practically been in tears over the frail but defiant condition of Anna Hazare adviser Arvind Kejriwal. The activist, who is apparently a diabetic, was in a bad way but was refusing to break his fast until all his conditions were met – arrest half the government and so on.


Goswami therefore got into fighting mode as there were indications that the movement was looking for a political solution. Karan Thapar also explored this on his Last Word on CNN-IBN.


By Thursday, it was announced that the anti-corruption movement would now become a political platform. The news was welcomed by all political parties since the fight had moved away from civil society to a battle ground they were all very familiar with.


The media’s relationship with the Anna Hazare movement has been fascinating. TV went overboard last year as it supported the movement wholeheartedly and since most TV journalists are under the age of 11, they must have felt this was bigger than the freedom movement. The print media however remained cautious and in some cases critical. The people of India also get enthusiastic and social media was buzzing with anti-corruption rage. The government helped by bumbling and fumbling in its negotiations. But nothing topped the one lakh people who supported the movement in Delhi last year. The Lokpal bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but did not get past the Rajya Sabha.


Buoyed by its success, the movement went a little overboard in its demands and so TV also started asking difficult questions. No one showed up in Mumbai in December and TV totally turned. All the allegations against people like Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal were discussed. Hazare’s rustic ideas on politics and society became public knowledge. The group’s diverse and contradictory views on the politics, on political parties and ideologies were exposed.


This time’s agitation saw the love coming full circle. TV tried to be supportive but the people were not. The movement’s supporters roughed up journalists for reporting the lack of popular support. The government was unmoved.


The result is that the movement has gone political. Media support, which bolstered the movement so much in its early days, is now no longer assured. An interesting tale of how activists took on the government and enthused some people for a short while has reached a very predictable end. The media, they will have to remember from now on, will never be a pillar of support if it has to be a pillar of democracy.


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Anna movement reaches its predictable end”

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