Anna Hazare, politician

Now that Anna Hazare has decided to become a real politician, it is my fervent hope that he and his fellow travellers discover that the fundamental principle of democracy is debate. Among the things that put me off Anna, and his movement, from the start was its totalitarian nature. Its apparent inability to accept that neither Anna nor his team have all the answers. I have had the uncertain honour of many close encounters with Annaites and have been astounded every time by their inability to comprehend the power of debate and the meaning of dissent.

On one occasion, Headlines Today filled the Kamani Auditorium in Delhi with Anna supporters for a panel discussion in which I was a participant and there was mob fury and violent abuse every time I opened my mouth. Why? I dared to point out that China had been unable to end corruption despite a law that allows corrupt officials to be shot.

What mystifies me about Anna's followers, considering that they are mostly urban, educated and middle-class, is their political illiteracy. In a television debate last week, I heard a famous author, and dedicated Annaite, recommend 'political correctness' as something India should learn to practice. He had no idea that political correctness was not some new fangled modern ideology. No idea at all that what it means is that you pull your punches when discussing certain ethnic, gender and religious issues because it is not 'politically correct' to offend the underprivileged.

This is only one example of political illiteracy that I have detected in Anna's flock. The list is a long one. But, the most important is their seeming inability to understand that the strength of democracy lies in its institutions and in the rule of law. You cannot fast unto death to demand a special investigation into 'fifteen corrupt ministers' but you can certainly go to court and file a PIL.

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