Time to save Anna's life

Team Anna came close to frittering away all that it had gained, and jeopardising Anna Hazare's life, over what was a matter of form and not substance. Should anything have happened to Anna, they would have had to answer to history for all that would have followed, writes Prem Shankar Jha.

Somewhere along the road from 11 April team Anna has gone wrong.

On that day Anna Hazare helped the people of India to take the first, and most important, step on the road from freedom to empowerment. With freedom, the people of India also inherited  a tradition of imperial  paternalistic government that treated the rights that Independence and democracy were supposed to have conferred upon them, as privileges that could be withdrawn at will.

This post-imperial mindset has lingered in the bureaucracy and, in the hands of a political class that relied increasingly upon black money and the support of criminals to win elections, has turned into an unparalleled freedom to extort, abuse and coerce.

Its trademark has been the systematic exclusion of members of civil society from the formulation of policy. This was the barrier that Team Anna broke through on 29 April.

On 8 April, Anna's fast dealt a lethal blow to this fond belief.  Today, on the 12th day of his second fast, Anna has given it its coup de grace. Through his two fasts Anna has forced the government to make civil society a partner in the framing of policy.

But today, Team Anna, or to be more precise,  its more radical members  like  Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan, seemed on the point of throwing away all the gains civil society made in April.  They had been doing this by negotiating, in effect through deadlines and ultimatums, and by constantly raising the bar of Parliament's compliance to their will.  

Worst of all they adopted this utterly unyielding stand at a time when a truly great and good man's life hung in the balance. Let me be blunt: if Anna Hazare were to have died, it would not have been the government but the radical members of team Anna who will be mainly to blame.