Monday, June 13, 2011

Political momentum against Anna’s panel growing......

Today’s papers mention two important developments. First, the hardening of the Congress’s stand against the demands of the panel of civil society activists. And second, the statement by Sitaram Yechuri of the Left that the Lokpal panel needs to be checked. That Parliament is supreme. Etc. He’s also written a very good piece in the Hindustan Times elaborating on the issue of corruption – claiming the high ground for the Left while still lambasting the Anna panel.

One has to give it to the Left. They have always represented elevated thinking. Sitaram Yechuri is a prime example of the Delhi School of Economics kind of thinking. The Left has never exploited religion to come to power. Even when they have lost WB and Kerala (and now have no state to call their own), they have shunned the politics of religion. And caste. The Left movement started off and even today represents the aspirations of the poor classes....not castes. Where the Left went astray and which is why I can never support the Left is in their outdated economic policies. If the Left had its way, India would still be in a world devoid of industrialization and privatization. The government would control everything including resource allocation. There would be better distribution of poverty - everybody would be uniformly poor. What takes me further away from the Left is that they are stuck on their ideology – even though their mentors – the Russians and the Chinese – have both moved towards capitalism.

Coming back to the main point of the post, Sitaram Yechuri’s stated pretty much the same things that I have mentioned often in this blog. The Lokpal concept cannot solve everything. The PM must be included under the purview of the Lokpal. The judiciary must be excluded but there must be a Judicial Reforms Committee. The Parliament is supreme. Unelected members cannot dictate to the duly elected government of the day. Etc etc etc. For me, what is important is not what Yechuri stated. What is important is that the Left has publicly aligned with the Congress on this crucial issue. They are both uniting to recover the ground lost by elected representatives to the unelected ones. Many more parties share the exact same opinion. If voting on the recommendations of the Anna panel happens today, it will be defeated in Parliament by a resounding majority.

The other aggressive statement is the one made by the Congress. That if Anna’s panel represents civil society, then who do they (MPs) – the voter’s choice represent? The un-civil society?! In many ways, this is a very exact definition of the problem I have with the Anna panel. It has assumed self gratuitously the mantle of representing all of civil society; trying to divide the country into civil society and the elected class. Their apathy towards the elected class has been apparent from the beginning.....and they have exploited the good image of Anna to somehow hide their real motives.....disdain for democracy and the process of elections and the voters in general. They have behaved as if only they have the intellectual capacity to decide what is good for the country. Their approach as been carefully calibrated to read “Either you are with us ..... or you are corrupt”. In one of the responses to one of my earlier posts, an “anonymous” person asked me if my family members were politicians or we had been beneficiaries of the 2G scam. I had to clarify neither of this was not true. But Anna has polarized society in such a harmful way that any divergent viewpoint from his is considered anti-national. Their attitude has been dictatorial. Five arbitrary members of the panel have demonstrated such haughtiness which can be called worse than that demonstrated by the politicians.

Let me repeat my point of view on corruption. I believe that there is about 10% corruption in almost every government contract. So 10% of the Rs 2000 odd crores that Kalmadi spent would have been usurped. 10% of almost all roads contracts are siphoned off. So on and so forth. In many ways, this 10% gives money in the hands of government officials in a way that the system is unable to give them legally as salaries. But since we won’t address the salary problem directly, the system has found its own way. When the corruption level becomes much higher – like in the NREGA scheme or in the PDS system – then it really angers the people. Else, people realize that this is a kind of a tax the haves have to pay to enjoy what they have.

Removing corruption will take several steps. Increasing salaries of ministers and IAS officers (and other government services) is a good starting point. This will encourage smart and clever people to join government. Today, they shun these jobs because they don’t pay enough (legally). Then there is need for electoral reforms. Pulling down a government before five years should be made difficult (though not impossible). Removing the 3% education cess and replacing it with an equivalent election cess can be a way of generating monies to fund elections. This way, rampant election related corruption could reduce. The Lokpal itself is a crucial part of the cleansing operation. It must be made as independent as the Election commission. But under Parliament. We need the UID scheme (and other technological interventions) to remove corruption in schemes like NREGA and PDS. In short, many things need to be done.....this is what the Anna panel has forgotten. Apart from the fact that they have become a front for BJP’s devious tricks department.....

The real truth is that for once, I do agree with Sitaram Yechuri. He’s stated today what I have been stating in my posts for long. Parliament indeed is supreme, no matter what the kind of MPs we elect. Anna’s panel hardly represents civil society. Most of Anna’s “crowds” can be assumed to be businessmen who avoid taxes illegally and are hence corrupt. And yes.....if it hadn’t been for media’s dangerous flirtation with Anna, there would have been no movement to start with. In any case, the timing is what irks me the most. It is been suggested that all corruption started during the last 10 years....and surprising skipped the 6 years of BJP rule. This is ridiculous. This is what shows that Anna’s is a political movement. By aligning with a party, Anna has either been misled by his motivated panel members, or has willingly let himself be driven off the right path. Either way, the movement is now on its path to shutdown.....Anna’s hazare’s threat of hunger strike till he dies nothwithstanding....

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