In August 2011, Ramlila Ground was somewhat reminiscent of what happened in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. But the violence that China's leaders chose to employ at the time was never an option for the Indian government. After a 12-day hunger strike, the parliament bowed to the activist's demands and promised to pass a tough anti-corruption law.
Hazare drank a little coconut milk and honey and left his stage in the capital while being celebrated by his fans as a victor. But, today, the bill remains bogged down in the upper house.
Is Hazare's popular movement truly the birthplace of a new civil society, as his supporters have gleefully proclaimed? Or does it actually harm India's democratic institutions? Or, as the magazine Outlook put it, is the movement like a torrent threatening to "overflow the banks of the constitution" and possibly bearing "shades of anarchy"?
During a meeting in his village, it becomes apparent how much Hazare has become an important player in Indian politics. It feels a little like being at court, with parliamentarians from all parties watching each other furtively in the small center of action, a room filled with books, constantly keeping an eye on the closed door to the inner sanctuary. The moment that Hazare steps into the waiting room, everyone pounces on him, telling him about their concerns, touching him and, in the truest sense of the word, trying to grab a piece of the coattails of the newly powerful activist.
Hazare waves some of them away like flies, while lending his ear to others. Only a few days ago, Hazare decided to stage another public hunger strike and to form a party with his group, "Team Anna." He says that he is not interested in running for political office, but added that he will continue to keep a close eye on those politicians who behave as if they owned the country. Different Visions of Progress In an inconspicuous government building in New Delhi, we meet with Kapil Sibal, 64, who is both the Minister of Human Resource Development and the Minister of Communications and Information Technology. Sibal is often mentioned as a potential prime minister.
Two people in the public eye couldn't be more different than Sibal and Hazare. Sibal, a member of parliament for the ruling Indian National Congress party, wears tailored suits, and his office, filled with oak furniture, can only be reached after passing through a number of security checkpoints. It is conspicuously silent in the waiting room. Sibal attended Harvard Law School before embarking on a classic political career. He has been president of the Supreme Court Bar Association several times, and he has also represented his country at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
A versatile politician capable of serving in various government capacities, Sibal's office has one thing in common with that of Hazare: There is a photo of Mahatma Gandhi on the wall.
Of course corruption is a problem, he says, just as it was a problem in comparable stages of economic development in Europe during the 20th century. The government has recognized this, he adds, and is prepared to take action. "But this country, with its great successes in business and education, can't be reduced to that," he says. "We have significantly reduced our illiteracy rate."