Team Anna and Team Manmohan continue to be at each other's throats, clearly oblivious to the distaste the spectacle must generate in an already demoralised citizenry. Of the two, the latter ought to take a larger share of the blame if only because ministers are surely restrained from behaving badly by the office they hold. Yet over the past week, senior UPA government ministers have lunged at Team Anna and at Anna Hazare himself with all the finesse of a street bully engaged in a bruising fight to the finish. It was difficult to decide who among Ministers Salman Khurshid, Vayalar Ravi and V. Narayanasami deserved top prize for incivility as they hurled accusations at their civil society opponents. The Minister for Law and Minority Affairs said he was deeply offended by the team's personal attacks on the Prime Minister but was himself not above aiming some broadsides at Kiran Bedi, claiming to have tolerated her thus far only because she was India's first woman police officer. If this was low theatre, Mr. Narayanasamy, who is a Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and Mr. Ravi, who holds the Cabinet portfolio of Overseas Indian Affairs, stooped further in calling the Anna movement anti-national and insinuating that Mr. Hazare has “foreign backing”. Mr. Hazare's methods can be debated and even criticised but it is shameful for ministers and politicians to question his patriotism.
Some months ago, the PMO had spotted a similar foreign hand behind the anti-nuclear power movement at Kudankulam. This pattern of official paranoia over popular protests is surely ironic considering the government has itself been accused of selling out to foreign interests and must therefore know the pain of being at the receiving end of wild accusations. Not that Team Anna is without its faults. The movement that caught the nation's imagination barely a year ago looks woebegone today thanks to factional fights and a loss of direction. The group set out to give us a robust Lokpal Bill but has since allowed itself to be diverted by other issues. It took the anti-corruption battle into the electoral arena only to make no impact whatever. Crowds have thinned at Anna's protest sites, and the veteran has not helped himself by teaming up with the maverick Baba Ramdev. Anna's on-again, off-again statements against the Prime Minister have added to the confusion and considerably undermined his team's effort to link Dr. Singh to corruption charges in the allocation of coal blocks. Unfortunately, the slanging match between Team Anna and the ministers cannot even provide comic relief to a nation fearing an economic downturn and groaning under misgovernance and runaway prices.