So my hopes were destined to be shortlived. Yesterday, when I wrote my post, I was hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be proved wrong about my happiness that both sides were showing flexibility. That both had decided to focus on the issues on hand and shun attacks on each other. That both had decided to walk that extra mile to find a solution that would help the country. Well….my hopes were dashed yesterday. And this time by the Anna team, not by the government. Clearly this time, it was Anna’s team that was the aggressor; Anna who was being unreasonable; Anna who was Goliath and Anna who was the blackmailer.
My story yesterday was based on two-three premises: 1) That Anna had said that his was only an indefinite fast and not a fast-unto death. In my mind, that meant that he was not blackmailing; only protesting and pushing his point 2) That he was flexible on some of his demands – based on statements that were made/hinted by members of his team. Demands that were clearly flawed. Demands like including the judiciary under the ambit of the Lokpal. Demands like covering all 1.4 crore government employees, a practically impossible solution. And 3) That the worry that the standing committee could not “structurally” change the bill presented to it was misplaced – a canard propounded by none other than his own team member Prahant Bhushan. The standing committee could in fact change the bill in its entirety if it agreed with Anna’s views. This last point was evidence that Anna did believe in the process of Parliamentary democracy.
Unfortunately, my hopes have been dashed on all three premises. Anna wants to fast-unto-death. Anna wants only his version of the bill to be passed. And Anna does not have any faith in the standing committee or in Parliamentary democracy itself.
Not only this, the language that was used yesterday by Anna’s team was deplorable to say the least. One got the impression listening to them that they were demanding the disbandment of the Constitution; in fact, the disbandment of the Parliamentary structure itself. Agreed the government had made a mistake by arresting Anna. But now that that had been corrected, I was hoping that we would move ahead. That we would start focusing again on the main issue – that of finding a holistic solution to removing corruption. With hope in my heart, I wrote yesterday about the many root causes of corruption that had to be fixed. Even gave some suggestions that many of my readers found interesting enough for a debate. In fact, all through the day (till the Anna press conference at 7 pm or so), I was preparing to write a post today which would have been an advice to the government: “Extend Parliament session. Pass Lokpal Bill now. Earn back people’s goodwill”. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Team Anna had decided to change the goal post.
Till yesterday, it was the government that was arrogant. Today clearly, it was Team Anna that was arrogant. Till yesterday, it was our MPs who were being typically aggressive. Today, it was Anna’s team members who were being aggressive. The speeches they made were more inflammatory than any politician could possibly make. Exhorting people with rhetorical questions. After all, what would you expect the crowd to say if asked “Do you want a strong bill?”…..Till yesterday, it was the politicians who were lying. Today, it was Anna’s team that was lying. Not telling the people the flaws about their Bill. Not telling people that they were really not interested in talking to the government, but only in embarrassing it. Till yesterday, it was the government that was not explaining what their objections were with Anna’s bill. Today, it was Anna’s team that was not explaining what was wrong with the objections raised by others in their bill. Till recently, everyone thought the government was the bully. Today, most people agreed that Anna was the bully. What a turn-around. What an unnecessary and unfortunate turn-around.
There are so many people complaining that Anna’s bill has flaws. On every TV channel, prime time is getting crowded by people who are cautioning us about the pitfalls. None less than Nandan Nilekani has come out openly saying that he does not believe that the Lokpal Bill was the solution. That many more things needed to be done. That he had personally presented several times to a standing committee (on Finance) and has found it to be extremely efficient and smart. That people should have faith in standing committees of Parliament. That his opinion of politicians had risen after he entered public life. Forget Nandan Nilekani, even Deepak Parekh and Rahul Bajaj have said that there are flaws and an in-between solution was required. Journalists/writers like Shobhaa De, Kumar Ketkar, Yogendra Yadav and many others have said the same thing. Former senior bureaucrats like Naresh Chandra and TSR Subramaniam (both former Cabinet Secretaries), JM Lyngdoh (Former Chief Election Commissioner), Ajit Doval (Former Director, IB) and Bimal Jalan (Former Governor, RBI); senior lawyers like Harish Salve, Ram Jethmalani and Iqbal Chagla; corporate head honchos like Venu Srinivasan (MD, TVS), Anu Aga (Former Chairman, Thermax Group), Harsh Mariwala (CMD, Marico) and Kishore Biyani (Founder, Future Group) all believe there are other solutions required to solving corruption (today’s coverage in TOI). So many sections of the society are openly opposed to Anna’s movement. The dalits, the Muslims…..have misgivings that Anna has chosen not to address. Frankly, the support for Anna is vastly exaggerated. And criticism against his bill vastly underreported. But anyone who opposes the Anna bill – including this blogger – gets either muted out or abused by Anna’s supporters when they express dissenting and cautionary sounds. You thought the government was being undemocratic? The truth is that it is Anna’s team that is undemocratic.
What about the opposition parties? A clamour has started amongst them for hitching a free ride on Anna’s movement; in fact, for making themselves relevant again, after surrendering the space to Anna. The BJP only keeps saying that they want the PM included. But even when pressed to comment on whether it thought the judiciary should be included; whether the conduct of MPs and MLAs inside Parliament should be included, it refuses to respond. Apparently, they will respond “at the right time”. When asked how the BJP would handle the situation at this point in time, all that Ravi Shankar Prasad can say is that the government was wrong in arresting Anna. Of course it was; but can you tell us if you would have been any better? The BJP is as bereft of ideas as the Congress has been of late. Bereft of idea? Or is there more to this charade than meets the eye? Is there an element of truth that all this is being orchestrated by the RSS – a body that prefers to shadow-box rather than come out openly and fight.
So where do we go from here? What happens when Anna’s health starts to fail? Should Parliament just junk all processes and pass the Jan Lokpal Bill as Anna is demanding? I am still to get a clear answer even from Anna’s supporters for this.
It’s sad the way this movement is losing direction. Anna’s team is clearly playing to the galleries. As Shobhaa De pointed out last night, the expectations of the crowds have been raised to the moon. Anything less will now be seen as disappointing. The Lokpal can never solve the problems that the crowds are carping about. The Lokpal can never solve the corruption in the last mile. But Team Anna has been untruthful with the crowds. And now, it is trapped in this populism. This is also where differences between Gandhi and Anna crop up. As Gandhi’s great grandson Tushar Gandhi pointed out, Gandhi never wanted to hurt the other side; he wanted the other party to become a friend, thus addressing the problems he raised. That’s why he fasted. In Anna’s case, it appears that he wants to hurt the other party; the solution really is immaterial. Gandhi was a pacifier…..Anna an attacker. Gandhi could “swim would often swin against the current” said Tulsidas Somaiya, a Gandhian. Can Anna? Gandhi was never interested in media coverage. He was frugal with media interactions. For Team Anna, their most exciting moment is when they are giving press conferences. And if you haven’t noticed, all of them find time to be present in TV studios; clearly, this movement is a creation of TV channels. If TV channels shut the coverage for just a few days, the movement would be dead. An article in NYT (http://alturl.com/3td2x) written by Manu Joseph also has some ugly truths that Team Anna doesn’t like to address...….
The real truth is that Anna is back to blackmailing the government. He is not serious of finding a solution. He is abusing the support that he has from a section of the population. For the benefit of the country, I sincerely hope that he changes his tack and goes back to the flexible stand he demonstrated yesterday.