To many people who think that Anna’s movement is nothing but dadagiri (or blackmail), there was more evidence in store yesterday. To many who think that his movement has political undertones, again there was more evidence yesterday – the rallying cry of “Lao ya Jao” being seen as another such piece of evidence. Till a few days back, Anna was saying that he wasn’t interested in toppling the government; but only in getting his Jan Lokpal Bill introduced in Parliament. Suddenly yesterday, he increased the pitch by demanding that if the government could not get the bill passed by August 30th – then it should go.
Let’s just list down the most outrageous elements of his demands here. The first of course is that the government’s version of the Lokpal Bill must be withdrawn and Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill should be introduced. Importantly, the Bill must be introduced as a government Bill. In effect, the government must introduce a Bill that it does not itself believe in. Second, the Bill must be passed by August 30th. No discussions in the Parliamentary Committee. No views from other sections of the society. No regard for Parliamentary processes. Nike would be proud that its slug line “Just do it” has had such a powerful impact on Anna! Third, the method of protesting - the fast-unto-death. There is nothing non-violent about this method. Everyone knows that should something happen to Anna, the crowds would go berserk. There would be violence across the country. The comparisons with Gandhi are untenable. Gandhi would also do fast-unto-deaths, but he would do so against an occupying force. That’s the difference. The same act has a totally different meaning when the context is different. We Indians call Kashmiri separatists as terrorists, but the same terrorists are freedom fighters for the Kashmiris. It’s the context that makes the difference. Anna’s fast-unto-death is not comparable with Gandhi’s because the context is totally different. Anna’s fast is against a legally elected popular government. Lastly, the self-righteousness inbuilt into the movement. It appears that only Anna’s team is clean, intelligent and independent. All others are mere puppets in the hands of the government (the question about why the NCPRI draft has come out now indicates that it is a puppet in the hands of the government) or are intellectually lower or are perhaps corrupt themselves.
There is nothing right about the Anna movement except for its basic core objective. That corruption has become a huge bugbear and people are really upset with the amount of corruption they are made to face every single day of their lives. The “lacs” of people who came out on the streets yesterday were against corruption; not necessarily in support of Anna’s version of the bill. Most of them do not even know the different versions of the bill; most have heard second or third hand what the bill is all about. Privately, most of those who know about the Bill agree that Anna’s Bill has its own loopholes. Anna is tapping into popular angst against corruption; not into their wish and demand for a particular type of bill. It’s important to make this distinction. It serves Anna’s purpose to confuse the two distinct points – to make it appear as if the outpouring of people is for his version of the Bill while in reality it is only against the scourge of corruption.
From a legislative perspective, it makes no difference how an alternative view-point reaches the standing committee. Let’s say that the standing committee has got Anna’s bill from Anna’s team and not from the government itself. So what? Does it mean that Anna’s bill cannot or will not be discussed? Whether the government bill states “include the PM” or “do not include the PM” has no bearing on what the final decision may be. It could be either. Or it could even be a totally different decision. It’s the same with all the eight points of difference. For Anna’s team to presume that their points are not known to the members of the standing committee is fallacious. Everyone knows what Anna’s views are…..
If Anna’s team is worried that their bill will be discussed only in the standing committee and not in the full Parliament, then that also is unfounded. When the final bill – after amendments made by the standing committee – comes to Parliament, it will be discussed again. If members feel that there are inadequacies still left, then more changes can be made. If the government goes against the will of the two houses, it could be toppled. In any case, it does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. It would never take such a chance.
So to presume that merely because Anna’s bill was not introduced as the official government bill, it will not get a fair hearing is fallacious.
The other reason behind Anna’s hard stance could be a total lack of trust in our MPs. There are comments I get on my blog which ask if a standing committee which has Abhishek Manu Singhvi as the Chairman and Laloo Prasad Yadav as its member can be trusted to do act meaningfully. Well, the committee has 25 members who belong to all major parties. If the worry was that the committee was dominated by the Congress, that’s untrue. There are only 8 members from the Congress (less than 1/3rd). There are 7 from the BJP/JD(U) and the rest are spreadout randomly between all other parties. Since this is a political hot-potato, and parties may see it as an opportunity to earn brownie points, it should be reasonable to expect that the 2/3rd non-Cong members could suggest that Anna’s version of the Bill be accepted in toto. Besides, there may be some suspicious names like Laloo, but there are also solid firebrand leaders like Ram Jethmalani and others in the committee. Is Anna saying that none of these people should be relied upon? In other words, everything is rotten except Anna’s team!
What would happen if Anna’s health deteriorated further. At a very practical level, there would be violence and the government would be compelled to use force. As soon as that happens, all hell would break loose. Politics would overtake everything. Maybe there would be a mid-term election; maybe that’s what the real objective of this entire program is. Is that why Anna has been so soft on the BJP? Anna has never spoken against the corruption in Karnataka. Neither did any of his team members. Except for Justice Hegde who brought out the report indicting the BJP. I consider Justice Hegde to be at best a fringe member of Anna’s team. He has disagreements with the other team members. He hasn’t even come to
to be with the team. Sure he does attend small rallies in Delhi , but that looks like tokenism. Why, he has even suggested that Anna’s team should consider being flexible. Is this why Kiran Bedi has become the de-facto 5th member of Anna’s team? Has she virtually replaced Justice Hegde? Bangalore
I will end with an analogy. Anna is behaving like a spoilt child. A child who was spanked in the past; but whose parents have since made amends. Now the child is taking advantage and being opportunistic. He is demanding more candies; not ordinary candies, but those laced with poison. He wants these candies, come what may. Since the parents had spanked the kid earlier, they are being watched by society, by the courts, by the school principal – all of whom may be spanking their children but here are demanding the opposite behavior. The parents are trapped. They cannot spank the child; and they cannot give him the poisonous candy. What should the parents do? That’s the essential question here. Well, my mind tells me that the parents should stay firm. They should ween away the child from the demand. If needed, they should spank the child a bit. But once they have spanked, they should suggest an alternative candy. The spanking would make the kid consider the alternative candy. Whatever happens, the parents should not concede and give the child the poisonous candy.
The real truth is that just like the parents in the above analogy, the government also must also not concede to the poisonous candy that is Anna’s Bill. It can try back-channel talks as it is attempting now. It can consider alternate drafts – most notably the one from NCPRI which appears to be better than both Anna’s and the government’s drafts. But it cannot concede. It must hold firm. If it concedes, it would be like the parents who agreed to give their spoilt child a poisonous candy. What is wrong is wrong. Besides, other children are watching how the parents behave. If the parents give the poisonous candy to one child, the others too will demand the same. It’s a tough situation to be in for the parents; but they have no alternative but to be firm…..