Monday, May 30, 2011

Anna style terrorism to strike India again....

Remember the famous challenge that George W Bush threw at the Pakistani establishment after the 9/11 attacks – “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”? This was seen as a kind of US “dadagiri”.....a form of threat to the world to take sides. And of course, the non-so-concealed import was that if you are not with us, you are part of the terrorist grouping. Many people felt at that time that the US was being a bully. It’s the same with the Anna panel.....”either you are supporting our demands or you are corrupt yourself” is the tenor of their argument. This much was argued even by Harish Salve.....who accused the Anna panel members of taking the “My way or the Highway” approach....something that he found to be totally undemocratic.

When the Anna hunger strike had first started in April this year, I had branded this style of protest as a version of terrorism. Any comparisons with Mahatma Gandhi’s hunger strikes were ill-founded because Gandhi used this form of protest against an occupying force. Anna was using the same against a duly elected government which represented the will of the maximum number of people of the country. In contrast, Anna himself and ALL of his panel members had no proven following. Anna’s fast was no different from the threat of an ordinary hijacker who demanded that a particular type of action be taken....or else misery would follow. I had also said that Anna Hazare’s followers had no credibility. Most of them would probably be businessmen (80% of urban are into their own business after all) – who are part of the corrupt lot. How many of them pay taxes as per the law? Or they were students – those who would soon become businessmen of some sort and start avoiding taxes. These were his supporters. Urban, middle-class people who were probably part of the corrupt brigade. How many of them realized this, I am not sure. But if media were to focus attention on their own corruption, it would be interesting to see how many of them would still support Anna. Can Anna himself challenge his supporters to shun corruption? Can he himself ask the businessmen to undergo a test first before he agrees to take their support?

Nothing has changed since April. I still strongly disagree with any move that weakens the political system in the country. By setting up the Lokpal outside the government, the proposal will in fact create a demagogue who would boss over elected representatives. He would suo-motu initiate action against any politician – including the PM – and could potentially become a tyrant himself. In any case, its such uncontrolled powers that start off the entire process of corruption. Why should we support such a proposal? Even the members of the Lokpal were to be “appointed” rather than “elected”. If Anna has such scant regard for democracy, why should we even listen to him? I am sorry but I am not willing to be ruled by a bunch of self-righteous lawyers who think that they are smarter than every one else in the country.

If a hunger strike was to be the way for every protest, then its best the government takes a hard approach to it. Like we advise the government not to negotiate with terrorists, so also we should advocate that the government should not negotiate with the hunger strikers. I am told now that Baba Ramdev is planning a hunger strike against black money. How about someone planning a hunger strike against him for all the accusations of illegal wealth apparently amassed by him? Medha Patkar was on a hunger strike against some slums being broken down in Bombay. Really? Why not actually allow slums to come up in Lutyen’s Delhi also? The Maharashtra CM was begging her to stop the fast. Maybe we need fewer of these civil society activists. Maybe the government should let the hunger striker achieve the moksh that they seem to want.

This time around, the Congress has smartened up. They are now writing to the opposition parties drawing them into the debate. So far, the BJP seems to be having a free ride on the subject. The corruption issue has become a Congress v/s Anna issue while in reality it is a politicians v/s Anna issue. When specifically questioned by the media on what their position was on several issues, BJP leaders have appeared to support Anna. But they have also said that they would state their views only when the government formally asked them for the same. Now the time has come. Does the BJP support the inclusion of the PM under the Lokpal Act? And the CM also? Wonder what they will do with Yeddy if the Lok Ayukta is given powers to sack him. Do they support the demand that the judges of HC and SC should be included in the Lokpal? What about the other issues? Now the party will have to take a stand. And once they take a stand, they will have to stick to it. Wonder what they will be thinking now considering that 71% of their states (5 out of 7) are in the topmost corrupt states listing in India (read my blog dated April 30th on this subject).

My complaint today is about the approach being taken by the Anna panel.....not the specific points that have been raised. I am all in favor of covering the senior judiciary because under the Lokpal because we know just how much corruption there is over there. Interestingly, senior counsels like Harish Salve are dead against this proposal. Should we simply assume that Prashant Bhushan is a smarter lawyer than Harish Salve? Or is it possible that he is totally off the track here? Likewise, should the PM be included or excluded? We need a good debate.....not a “we will walk out” kind of a threat. I certainly don’t agree that all investigative bodies should be put under the Lokpal. That much power – all of it unaccountable – would become a threat to our democracy by itself. I do feel that the conduct of MPs in Parliament should be included under the Lokpal. But surely, there is an alternate point of view possible?

Is it possible that Anna’s members may be wrong on some of their points? Or should we assume that they are the smartest we have got in the country and everyone else is wrong? And whose decision is it going to be finally on which points to accept and which not to? A duly elected government’s or that of the civil society representatives who have no proven support at all?  

I think the government should be strong in its response. Unfortunately, they are acting weak again. Why did Kapil Sibal not come onto TV channels yesterday to explain the government’s thinking? Why was some silly MP from AP (some Rao who I have never seen before) on Times Now? He couldn’t even speak properly. Why is Chidambaram not in the media putting out his side of the story? Why is the Congress leaving the field open for the civil society activists to exploit? These are the questions that the Congress should mull about.....

The real truth is that right from the word Go, this entire Anna hunger strike has been like a terror strike. It’s totally undemocratic. Media’s role also has been irresponsible. Rather than bringing out the real issues.....and allowing each side to express has played partisan politics. Painting politicians black is a common pastime of media channels.....but providing solutions is beyond their capability. Shouldn’t they look at changing their own tack at some time?

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. All that is required is to strengthen the existing anti-corruption institutions than to create one more and make jurisdictional and coordination problems.