Anna is not a Gandhi, says Lord Bhikhu Parekh
Lord Bhikhu Parekh, the former MS University vice-chancellor and a recipient of Padma Bhushan, has questioned the comparison made between Mahatma Gandhi and social activist Anna Hazare during the recent Jan Lokpal Bill campaign.
Parekh said Gandhi used to adopt eight other means to prove his point before going on a fast and he would never have a “team” to mediate with the government. He was delivering a lecture on “The role of civil society in the regeneration of India”, organised in the city by Federation of Gujarat Industries on Friday evening.
The “state bad, civil society good” has become the new mantra, which is understandable but dangerous because the state is not all bad, and civil society does not consist of angels, Parekh said.
“Our political system faces three crises. Crisis of political authority: no public figure commands widespread respect. The second is crisis of political institutions, where none is trusted for its integrity and finally the crisis of political culture, which is weak and lacks agreement on basic norms,” Lord Parekh said.
“The term civil society was a new entrant in India’s political vocabulary. Since there is a legitimate distrust of the state, the civil society is expected to provide an answer to its ills. Anna Hazare’s fast served a most valuable purpose. I am against fasts, but desperate times need desperate remedies, and Annaji was right to launch it. However, I am uneasy with several aspects of it. It need not have taken place in a public maidan and turned into a theatre. Its rhetoric was inflated,” he said, adding that the dignity of Parliament should have been respected, and ultimatums should have been avoided.
Evidently irked by the comparison of Anna Hazare with Mahatma Gandhi, Parekh said, “Gandhiji never went on fast on a public platform and he always preferred to be alone. More importantly, before going on fast, Gandhi used to resort to other means to prove his point. To say this is a second freedom struggle is to suggest we have achieved nothing since independence and to insult the memories of Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Lal Bahadur Shashtri.”
Parekh also questioned the presence of Bollywood actors on the same platform and said stars should not have been allowed to address the gathering when their own records were not clean and they had very little to say.
“Hazare’s fast served a most noble cause. I salute him and hope if he does it again, some of these mistakes will be avoided,” Lord Parekh signed off.