Fasting and faster
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Anna threatens to fast again. And Kejriwal continues his drive-by shootings
The season of feasting brings with it a depressing threat of fasting. And a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, for it is demonstrated that even a Gandhian can go back on his word. Anna Hazare had abjured fasting after his last binge in June. He had retreated to his rural idyll, admitting that his fast had taken a greater toll on his own constitution than on corrupt institutions.
Now, Arvind Kejriwal is going mainstream with a political party and has agreed to relinquish the movement's mother brand, India Against Corruption. Hazare is happy to regain ownership, revive the brand and put it back on a diet of good intentions and fresh air. This would keep alive his branch of the movement — the rootstock, actually — but is it capable of going anywhere? The return to the politics of fasts and ultimatums suggests that it can only go round and round in circles in one place — Delhi's Ramlila Maidan.
Hazare was right to abjure public fasts. His fasts against his own government were not the same as Gandhi's fasts to oust a colonial power. Today, with the poverty line where it's at, 65 years after Independence, fasting is not an act of protest at all. It cruelly mimics the everyday life of unprotesting India — the huge population still struggling to make ends meet. Kejriwal's electoral ambitions are legitimate, but his bizarre hit-and-run spree threatens to reduce elections to contests between accusations rather than issues. A fasting Gandhian, and an even faster election candidate, reeking of cordite and burnt rubber, who specialises in drive-by shootings. As India prepares for an election where corruption will be an issue, it isn't exactly spoiled for choice.