Will Congress beat Team Anna at their own game?

Written by: Sreekumar Narayan
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Reports about the likelihood of Army Chief General VK Singh joining Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev in their fight against corruption after his imminent retirement are yet to be confirmed by the Army Chief but if they are true, the government could well have its hands full in the coming days.

Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev

Although neither the Gandhian who founded Ralegan Siddhi nor the yoga guru enjoy the massive support which they did in the initial phase of their agitations, there is no denying the public's dismay over the UPA's failure to table the Lokpal Bill for discussion in the first part of the ongoing Budget Session.

If a person entrusted with the most important responsibility of protecting the country from all kinds of external aggression decides to make common cause with Anna and Ramdev, we could again witness a groundswell of enthusiasm for the duo too by default. The government would then be put in a bind.

While the general's critics can argue that an Army Chief should never become a 'rebel' and raise serious questions of impropriety, clearly this need to be considered only after VK Singh bites the bullet. Since his plans are not known, any speculation right now is a waste of time.

There is no denying that Hazare and Ramdev appear to be unusual allies at first glance. The former escaped unscathed despite the strenous efforts of Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh to besmirch his reputation whereas the latter came under scrutiny when the Enforcement Directorate registered a case against his Haridwar-based trusts for alleged foreign exchange violation.

Notwithstanding the fact that some members of Team Anna are uneasy over the proposed alliance with Ramdev due to the aforementioned reason, they are keenly aware that a joint campaign can effectively channelise the widespread angst against the Centre to their benefit.

The aam admi is definitely not amused by the inordinate delay in passing the Lopkpal Bill. When the entire opposition cried foul immediately after Vice President Rajya Sabha Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari abruptly adjourned the Upper House in the last week of December 2011, the government had assured that the discussion on the Bill will be resumed as soon as possible.

Instead of sticking to its promise, one has seen the ruling dispensation resort to delaying tactics simply because it does not enjoy a majority in the Upper House. The belated announcement that this important piece of enabling legislation will be taken up by the Rajya Sabha in the third week of May indicates that prolonged consultations with recalcitrant allies and other supporting parties who do not want to rock the boat at this stage have seemingly lent the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress enough confidence that it can somehow muster up the requisite numbers and thereby ensure the passage of the Bill this time.

If that happens, the opposition and the anti-corruption crusaders probably won't be able to make further political capital out of this issue. The government is presuming that, in such a scenario, the implicit threat of instability posed by the overwhelming success of the anti-corruption movement will be rendered irrelevant.

Since parties like the Trinamool have not publicly changed their stand till date on the crucial amendments to the Lokpal Bill, the Congress  will be forced to walk a tightrope and make vital concessions. In doing so, they might be able to pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha but it could turn out to be a pyrrhic victory.

Time will reveal who is the victor in the end. Until then, we get to wait and watch an engrossing war of attrition.

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