Honestly, when Anna’s team called the ad released by the standing committee (soliciting views of the public and others on the Lokpal bill) as a diversionary tactic, I was not surprised. By now, I have come to expect such extreme responses. When he demanded that the Jan Lokpal Bill be presented in Parliament by Tuesday, August 23rd, and passed by the same Friday, to me it was more of the same dadagiri that has come to characterize his movement. Frankly, this attitude is now pissing me off; egged on by a small crowd of motivated but disillusioned followers, Anna’s camp is in a trap. A trap of populism. They themselves have no alternative left. Raising the pitch all the time is the only thing they can do – even if that pushes them further into a corner. Team Anna now needs a face saver. The NCPRI draft is a good face-saver…..
The government must remember that it has a constitutional duty to consider all points of view before enacting any law. Anna’s view is one view. But there are many more views out there. The standing committee must follow all processes. And I and millions others support that. Every right thinking person in this country supports that.
The government needn’t worry too much about Anna’s fast. If anything happens to Anna, that would be the responsibility of Team Anna and the organizers, India Against Corruption. Why should a whole country be held ransom by such a blackmail? How can it be that unless the government concedes to a blatantly flawed bill, Anna will not give up his fast? If Anna wants to croon to Bon Jovi’s “It’s my life”, then that’s his democratic right. And he is exercising it in full consciousness and with his team’s full backing.
I want to make a small observation of the hype and exaggeration that TV channels are putting out. The crowds that have been reported by TV channels are vastly exaggerated. Yes, there was a lot of crowd when Anna was released from Tihar – but those crowds were there because Anna had been wronged by being jailed. Those crowds were against that action of the government. Now it’s different. TV cameras are playing tricks with viewers to give an impression that the movement has reached mammoth proportions. In Mumbai, at the Azad maidan, there are hardly a couple of thousand people. TV channels were reporting the other day that there were 2000 people at Juhu beach in the night. For people who don’t live in Mumbai, let me tell you that Juhu beach is pretty much packed every single night anyways! Besides, unlike the regular crowds which stay on for hours, this crowd vanished after a small protest. The report that the dabbawallas of Mumbai had stopped work on Friday was projected as an indication of the common man’s support for Anna – the fact is that Friday was a holiday all over Mumbai (it was Pateti) and so no one minded that the dabbawallas were off! Overall, in Mumbai, there is very little impact of the Anna movement. Life is going on full steam; people busy with their work. Those who do talk about Anna say two things – one, that the fight against corruption is good and two, that Anna’s methods have gone too far. It’s the same in all others cities around the country. In Ahmedabad, when TV channels reported “huge” crowds, the actual numbers were a few hundred. Likewise in most other cities, there are hardly any crowds at all. The only place where the crowds are larger is
– but even here, the crowds are no more than 10-15000 people. I am told that even in Delhi , work is hardly affected. Life goes on as normal. It appears that the crowds are only on TV screens! Delhi
Look at the kind of people who are supporting the movement. I heard of some film stars supporting Anna’s movement. Of course, Anna won’t ask them if they or others in their industry are not taking a chunk of their “fees” in black. But shouldn’t the film stars themselves be a little more honest here? I liked SRK’s comments that though he supported Anna’s movement, he was circumspect about his methods. Look at the support that Anna gets and takes from Baba Ramdev – the one who raised a cry against black money. As has now been found, he is personally involved in ferreting away black money outside the country! SRK’s response captures the thinking in many people’s minds. Most of them are afraid of expressing it aloud because they are afraid that they will be seen supporting corruption! Who says the Anna movement is non-violent? It’s brutally violent. There is no space for any criticism in this movement. Those who criticize better do it in hushed voices! For me, this is a reminder of emergency too!
The government must now switch off from Anna. Enough efforts have been made to reach out already. It would help the government a lot more if it instead focused its attention on the NCPRI version of the Lokpal Bill. I like the approach of this group of people. They have faith in our Parliament and in the standing committee looking into this matter. They are preparing to present to the standing committee and pitch for their bill being adopted. This is the right approach. The government must listen to people who follow the procedures prescribed by our democracy. I also like some of the proposals made by the NCPRI. Like the inclusion of the PM, but insistence on adequate safeguards against frivolous complaints. Like the division of authorities between three different Lokpal institutions – (1) the National Anti-corruption commission to cover all MPs and senior Grade A and above officers (2) The strengthening of the CVC to take care of other categories of civil servants and (3) the Judicial accountability commission to take of corruption in the judiciary. By not centralizing the powers into one humongous body, the NCPRI draft makes the Lokpal less demonic. There are also good provisions for whistleblower protection. The bill also goes against the government’s version in areas where that is weak. All in all, the NCPRI draft looks like a good in-between bill and certainly worthy of consideration by a larger group of standing committee members.
I hear that the non-BJP, non-Congress parties are planning to launch a nation-wide bandh on August 23rd. When I read about this, I first had a big laugh. Who are these parties really? Telugu Desam Party which has no locus left in AP politics? Or the Left (with its allies) which has seen its biggest route in the recent elections in WB (sorry Paschim Banga!) and Kerala? I cannot even recollect the names of the other parties! I am also told that the BJP may organize a national bandh of its own. My sincere advice to them would be to avoid Karnataka – they may just get a rude shock from the people there! And while we are at avoiding states, they had better keep MP, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand out too…..there’s much to hide there too!
I guess, somewhere the Congress gets comfort from the disarray in the opposition ranks. The BJP doesn’t even have a national leader to project. Between Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, the party’s prospects are self-limited. Besides, the BJP is already treading on thin ice with its objection to including the judiciary under the Lokpal and including the conduct of MPs inside Parliament under the Lokpal. Theirs is a clear case of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. It’s a matter of time before they get exposed.The Left doesn’t want the judiciary included. They have been silent on the other points. If Anna thought the opposition was with them, he is mistaken.
The Congress must only make sure that it doesn’t do anything stupid any more (that may be difficult for them!). They’ve done the right thing by shooing off Manish Tewari and Kapil Sibal from the TV screens. I do hope they can ask Renuka Chaudhury also to stay away from TV debates. Honestly – she’s quite a joke especially when she is pitted against smarter opponents (which is always the case)! It’s time for Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ambika Soni and maybe Pranab Mukherjee to present the government’s views.
Whatever happens, there is no reason for the government to come under pressure. They are doing the right thing by following Parliamentary procedure. The parliamentary committee has done the right thing by putting out an ad soliciting public opinion. They should have given 30 days time instead of the 15 days they have actually given. After all, not everyone can respond in 15 days. There is no reason to rush through. Frankly, the parliamentary committee needs to meet many many people who respond. This could take 3-4 months and it should be OK if it takes that much time. Maybe the winter session is difficult to meet too. Maybe Anna will give up his fast now and start it again during the winter session! That way, TV channels will get sustained news tamasha every time Parliament sits for a session! How interesting!
The real truth is that it is actually Anna’s bill which now qualifies to be called the joke-pal bill, given it’s widely accepted flaws. My advice to the government is to do the right thing…..and follow constitutional procedures. Also, don’t let government come to a stop. There are many bills waiting to be introduced; many laws waiting to be passed. Please don’t go into a slumber like in the past. Show us a renewed will to govern. Show us that there is no policy freeze. Show us you can be tough on hoarders whose activities lead to food inflation. Put pressure on the BJP to support the GST and the DTC – both bills which will help reduce corruption. Introduce the new Land Acquisition Bill. There are many waiting to see action from the government. Please don’t disappoint them. Anna will never be satisfied. The rest of us may be…..