Thursday, August 2, 2012

Democracy Delivers it !

It has been an extraordinary intellectual journey as a student of politics. The charade has ended. Indian Democracy emerges victorious. Yet Again.

Winston Churchill  has been quoted in countless history books lampooning Indians (on the eve of their Independence) saying "Power will go to the hands of , rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles."

In Modern India of 2012, This is far from true. I have no doubt whatsoever that there have been shortcomings. Some Big, Some Small. There has been rampant Corruption, Communalism and Casteism
(The Big C's ) in our socio-politico-economic existence. But when one sees the larger canvas, there is undoubtedly a feeling of sheer pride. A small sense of achievement in the eyes of every Indian.

Democracy is Collective Co-existence with Diverse views. India is perhaps, one of the most diverse nations in the world. It is said in India - Culture, Religion, Ethnicity, Language, Creed - All changes every 10 villages. Imagine a country having 6.5 lakh villages. This is humongous diversity.

Indeed. At the heart of all democratic theories is the concept of popular power. It refers to a situation where power and authority ultimately rests with the people. A democratic government is contrasted with an authoritarian one, on the basis of consensus created by the people to take decisions. In an authoritarian regimes the 'will of the people' is not concerned. Periodic Elections are not held, with un-elected elites controlling the reigns of power. In India, its just the opposite. Elections are frequent - on each level of governance. India conducts on an average atleast 15 state elections per year, elections of urban local bodies are held in different cities throughout all seasons, elections are held at grass root level - Gram Sabha- panchayats to imbibe direct democracy. Infact,elections are so frequent, that it has prompted many critics of "India's low growth" to say that there is too much "Democracy" in India. Sometimes, People of India, do suffer from Election Fatigue. More so when democracy impedes growth. (That is however a deeper question to reflect on, and a separate discussion is required on it)

 No, wonder The world calls India - The Largest Democracy on Planet Earth.

Constitution and its ethoes, in India are credited to social reformers like Raja Ramohan Roy. One of the First Indians to speak his mind on socio-political issues concerning India. Later when the British Rule ended- Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajgopalachari, B R Ambedkar, K M Munshi, Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad and others gave a structure to the idea of India. Nehru, undoubtedly as the First Prime Minister of India is credited for the strong foundations of India's constitutional and institutional traditions. B R Ambedkar gave us the largest ever 'written' constitution in the world - which had all the basic ingredients of Equality, Liberty, Justice, Secularism essential for a Liberal-Socialist Regime. Later Ram Manohar Lohia, who had significantly different views than Nehru's model of centralized welfare democratic socialist state also had an indelible impact on contemporary Indian politics. Lohia's views assume importance because there is a renewed focus on decentralization as a way back to tackle bureaucratization and centralization of power.

The wheels of power started turning. Institutions were established. Institutions took time to deliver too, but nevertheless delivered, some still delivering, some trying to deliver, some did not deliver and so on.  Civil Society and Pressure Groups played their role from time to time. From Jyotirao Phule to Vinoba Bhave, From Baba Amte to the great E. V. Ramasamy 'Periyar', From Jayaprakash Narayanan to Swami Vivekananda.

The one social reformer which India will perhaps never forget was of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was truly original.

The introduction to this passage talks about the 3C's that confront India. Corruption being the most relevant today, since we have started witnessing an Anti-Corruption Movement- A First of its kind. Sections of educated Indians were on streets when last year in August - Anti-Corruption crusader Anna Hazare was taken into preventive custody. The story that followed is well known. More known via the media- the 24x7 news channels that flashed every detail of it. Newspapers reported it in kilometres Suddenly a sense of detest crept in.

Every institution was mocked and criticized by a bunch of 6 people branded as - 'Team Anna'. There was some genuine anger against the disproportionately big scams by the Govt of the day. Some Allegations, Some Real ones. Also vested interests in the opposition- started actively supported the movement. Initially, some opportunistic politicians wanted to share stage with this "Gandhian" crusaders, but were shunned.

Some members of the team, never failed to entertain us too with their Anti Politician angst. Some called MP's as looters, rapists, thieves. Media was vehemently covering and showing every little act of this team. Their sound bytes got in the TRP's. Suddenly a Nation had awaken to this new magic wand called "Jan Lokpal" which was touted as the cure of all its problems of corruption and loot of taxpayers money. The cacophony began louder and louder and a helpless (almost leaderless) government engaged with them.

Rest story, if repeated- would make this passage too long to read. To cut the long story short.

Lokpal passed by the Lok Sabha, got stalled in the Rajya Sabha ( the one adopted by the sense of the house resolution and recommended the Parliamentary Standing Committee)  Presently it is with the Select Committee of the Parliament. Every person, who was unhappy with any politician or institution was painting the entire political class in one single brush - CORRUPT !

Gandhi used fast as a socio-political statement. He used fasting as a method of self purification.
He says "Fast, as an instrument, must come from the depth of one's soul. It is, therefore, always rare. A Satyagrahi should fast only as a last resort when all other avenues of redress have been explored and have failed. There is no room for imitation in fasts"

Anna Hazare fasted for several times during the past one year, and have been covered by the main stream media as the "Modern Gandhi".

As a student of political science, I watched every action of Team Anna and their supporters. I realized that in all this noise- some essential points were being forgotten. Particularly the Lokpal Bill. Most sections of the media had failed in their prime responsibility of educating the people about the bill. When Parliament started debating the provisions of the "Lokpal", media slowly followed, but got people confused. There were deals within deals- between Govt, between Opposition and of course with Anna on key provisions. Some climbdowns, Several changes. This to my mind still portrayed that Democracy prevailed.

To my part as an upright citizen, I created a website - to create awareness in whatever small way- I could contribute to the cause. As a citizen of this Nation- I too wanted a Lokpal for this country, Not supporting the Anna version - But clearly a practical version. I created presentations listing comparisons between various versions of the Bill - Team Anna's Bill vs Aruna Roy (NCPRI) vs Lok Satta (JP) version vs the Govt's Lokpal Bill

In the summer of 2011, Team Anna started their direct indulgence with electoral politics, in the Hisar Bye-Elections. Hisar is a dusty town in North India. It was founded by  Firozshah Tughlaq of the Delhi Sultanate. Now Hisar became the rallying point of Anti-Ruling-Party forces, supposedly used by Team Anna to flex their electoral muscles. They pleaded to the people to defeat the ruling party, had letters signed by the president of the opposition party, in favour of the Lokpal. The opportunistic opposition gladly obliged, giving a written assurance that if their candidate won- they would support Lokpal. The Opposition alliance candidate won. The drama played on.

Reality was different , Team Anna got bitten by one of the "C"'s of Indian Politics . "C" - For Casteism. Hisar voted for the pedigree. Kuldeep Bishnoi retained his fathers seat - Bhajan Lal - One of the most prominent Non-Jat leaders of that area.

Subsequently, when the Lokpal went to the standing committee. Another "C" of Indian Politics, gradually and incrementally started biting Team Anna. That Team Anna- for whom every Indian Politician- was corrupt. Got bitten by "C" for - you guessed it right ! Kiran Bedi was allegedly found inflating travel cheques. Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan in a bribe CD and for evading stamp duty. Arvind Kejriwal for not maintaining the accounts of IAC, and for not returning his IT dues. Anna Hazare- Himself -indicted in the Sawant Commission report, and on several statements - like "I support Flogging for Drinking", "Sirf Ek Maara" ( when  someone slapped Sharad Pawar ) etc.  In Aside, I should also mention their partner in crime - Baba Ramdev whose story I have explicitly mentioned in my previous blogs)

Systems and Institutions were clearly catching up. Team Anna kept on using fasts and anshans as an instrument to keep up the pressure. Pressure for what? Pressure for getting - Their and Only THEIR Version of the Lokpal Bill passed. Democracy too was catching up. Politics clearly is and was the centre of this entire movement. They invited some politicians across the opposition ( no-ruling party member was reportedly invited ) to share stage with them.

All this was a clear demonstration that Team Anna was highly political in its purpose. And It had lost all its rights to act as Pressure Group of Civil Society. It also lost the right to abuse the system and the politicians, because slowly and surely Democracy and Constitutional Institutions were catching up with them.
There cannot be 5 people dictating a duly elected government- pressing for their own law. Using fasts to blackmail it. Interesting to note that, in all these fasts- Young members of Team Anna never fasted- They only made 73 year old Anna Hazare to fast ! (sic)

In the monsoon of 2012, Team Anna has politicized its agenda. Now it wants a SIT (Special Investigation Team) to probe charges of "corruption" against 15 sitting ministers, including the Prime Minister and the President of India. That too with 3 eminent jurists of their choice. This decision by them, didn't surprise me, but  has surprised his supporters. The movement which they had supported so zealously by buying all these "I Am Anna" Gandhi caps had let them down. Team Anna launched a fast yet again, this time an "Indefinite One" for their demands. Lokpal, for the time was kept aside.

 Flashback - Mahatma Gandhi. He said - " Fasting cannot be undertaken mechanically. It is a powerful thing but a dangerous thing, if handled amateurishly. It requires complete self-purification, much more than what is required in facing death with retaliation even in mind. Ridiculous fasts spread like plague and are harmful"

Young members like Arvind Kejriwal fasted. No sizable crowds came at Jantar Mantar, this time. Ramdev was roped in for a day ( a cameo with his supporters indeed- he did get some supporters)  Supporters started misbehaving with the media, alleging that this time they were not given due coverage. Team Anna supporters and actor - Anupam Kher told Karan Thapar- "Media should consider Anna as their friend, since both benefit from it" This meant that Team Anna and the Media had a symbiotic relationship last year, which they could not enjoy this year. So the Media Charade got exposed.

Anna Hazare also plunged in. Desperate, Disgruntled and Directionless the movement had become. Supporters pelted stones at PM's Residence. Maligned its walls with the word "Chor", demonstrated at other residences too.

Meanwhile, Another "C"- Communalism came to bit Team Anna. Albeit, in a different kind of a way. On the day - Baba Ramdev (Now a collaborator of Team Anna- a marriage of convenience) shared stage with the mascot of Communal Violence- Narendra Modi in Ahemdabad, Team Anna retaliated against him. Abused Modi and said that they would never support him. This was the last "C" in their "C" -Coffin !

When a Fast unto Death is withdrawn without either objective being achived it becomes a Farce. Now Team Anna has promised to break their fast tomorrow ( 3rd Aug 2012) at 5:00PM and Anna has announced that they are now open to the idea of forming a political party.

I whole heartedly welcome this decision.

They were in Politics from Day-1, But were calling themselves Apolitical and "Civil Society" crusaders. All the fundamental "C"'s of Indian Politics bit them. The phrase "Team Anna" crafted by the media should be extinguished by it too, so that a New "Anna Political Party" could come up. An Alternate which people of Hisar also aspired for. Despite being an active participant in that political campaign, they failed to provide that alternative. This proved the adage "Those who live by the media, die by the media", True.

Indian Democracy triumphed. Now it will have another political party with some strong ideas to benefit from. If Indian Democracy can bring dreaded insurgents and their leaders in states like Assam and Mizoram to join mainstream politics- Anna Hazare was pretty easy. Indeed

Several Questions Still Remain Unanswered.

Fast unto Death was a political ploy to garner publicity for their action? Did they abuse the pure and Gandhian ritual of fasting for their political purposes?  Why did they fast if they knew that a duly elected Government would never investigate its own PM and President?

Some even deeper questions.

Will the 3 "C"s that bit Team Anna - Corruption, Communalism and Casteism be ever defeated. The answer is yes.

If calibrated reforms - Social, Political, Economic are carried out- that is possible. But When and How?  

Let Democracy Be The Judge !


Reena said...

Yes, it was a movement to become popular enough to indulge in politics, as entering politics honestly is difficult nowadays.. And yes, they have maligned peaceful methods of protest by their antics..

यारों का यार said...

By this logic, we should not do anything and wait till the hunger of these politicians is quenched. Because they will keep buying the democracy we have with the help of blankets and a bottle of desi, and we will not be able to do anything.

Aravind said...

Interesting take on the issue...what do you think must be done to make the system more accountable.

Though ur article is written well, its pretty one sided, u have not taken the government's shifts and failure to handle corruption properly.

Mitul "Mitzy" Choksi said...

Team Anna are glorified blackmailers. While I respect Mahatma Gandhi for some of the things he did, I personally believe that he is one of the biggest villains in our history as a significantly powerful factor that led to partition. Even after partition, there was a chance to subdue Pakistan at the time of the transfer of Rs. 55 crore to them. Sardar and Nehru were against this. They had to bow to Gandhi's pressure to pay that money.

Bowing to Anna Hazare's demand of creating a Jan Lokpal would unleash a similarly powerful demon like Pakistan within India in the form of a so called ombudsman with power to do almost anything.

Even if the leaders are corrupt in this country, they still run it. Who will you find to run the country if you put all the MPs in jail.

Flogging for drinking? This guy deserves to be flogged to his senses. I don't know why the government takes this shit from this village bumpkin who does not know shit. Well, actually he knows shit. He knows how to use cow dung for lighting fires in his village. Besides that he cannot differentiate between constitution and prostitution.

Bottom Line:
Take a hike Anna

Rohit Narang said...

Anna's demand for lokpal is totally ridiculous!is it fool proof that lokpal won't b corrupt? Lokpal won't blackmail govt?how can a judge(if brought under lokapl) pass independant decision when he knows that the loosing party will complaint against him in lokpal? Moreover we need technology+policies to curb corruption!is not corruption evaded in BSNL? B4 there was waiting list to take a landline! We can curb corruption by computerisation of PDS, by electonically transferring pensions, subsidies etc to beneficiary accounts! We can curb corruption in electricity dept by SIM enabled meters. These are some of the ways that govt is considering! Anna is just fooling middle class emotions!

Ankur Govani said...

Now we are talking. It'll be fun to watch them get thrashed by junta only. A political movement can't be apolitical. It's not 1992 anymore that Team Anna will get carried away by all these bombastic speeches. They will get what they deserve. 3 cheers for the democracy.

By the way nice article. It's always fun to read your oeuvre whether it's a fb's status or twitter's twit :)