Saturday, September 3, 2011

Let Team Anna face the elections….

A poll conducted by a TV channel and reported in The Times of India todays shows how badly Congress would fare if elections were held today. Conducted as it was in the immediate aftermath of Anna’s “August Kranti”, the results are not surprising. The Congress succeeded not in scoring one self goal but several. While the BJP is shown to be gaining, it is Team Anna that is expectedly doing extremely well. Brings me to the title of this piece – let Team Anna face the elections. At least we will know how well they can run the government after having run the campaign against it so effectively!

Many people who disliked my criticism of Anna’s movement taunted me by saying that I should try fasting for a few days to know what it feels like. That I should do at least something small to fight corruption (rather than writing a blog!) rather than criticizing the one who is doing something about it. Given the sentiment in the country, I was in a very small minority (and for the first time felt what it is like to be a minority in this country! The attacks are vicious and highly personalized). But whenever I asked why Team Anna was not contesting elections so that they could form the government, the standard reply was that they are not interested in contesting the elections and running the government. Why does the same yardstick that was used to taunt me not apply to Team Anna as well? Why cant Team Anna come forward and clean the system from the inside rather than attempt it from the outside? Surely they know that they will win the elections. So losing is not a worry. Why is Team Anna so hesitant to join the battle from the inside?

I will tell you why. Because when you start doing something from the inside, the advantage shifts to those who are outside. It’s easy for people outside to criticize those who are doing things on the inside. Exactly the same argument which was used against me would work against them if they moved into the inside. Team Anna knows this. That’s why no one wants to join the dirt and grime of elections and form the government. If you decide to fight elections, you will have to worry about election funding. From the outside, its easy to comment on how politicians are corrupt; but once you are one of them, how will you remain clean? Once you are inside, it becomes your problem to fix the problems. Everytime your subordinate 25 levels below you does something wrong, people will demand your resignation. Everytime you introduce a bill, some sections of the society will question not the provisions of the bill, but your motivation itself. Everytime you do something that you think is good for the country, people will look at your with mistrust and wonder where the good for you is! Auditors make the worst managers. When an auditor who is used to bringing up faults (and only faults) as mandated shifts over to the side when he/she has to be the doer of something, he/she goes through agony. Auditors can remain auditors all their lives….and be damned good at that…..but they can never run something on their own. My charge against Team Anna is that they cannot run a government in this country. Their’s is a selfish abandonment of governance; not a sacrifice as some may believe.

That is why this poll is meaningless. If there is so much support for Anna and his team, and if they are not going to contest, that support is wasted.

Like I stated in my piece on August 10th titled “CNN-IBN’s poll shows Congress suffering; but BJP not gaining”, the Congress has been trouble over the corruption and Lokpal issues for a long time. The Congress deserves to be in trouble. The way they handled Anna’s fast – arresting him first – then sending him to Tihar – showed a desperate keenness to commit political hara-kiri. The poll results are thus not surprising. These new poll results however show that the BJP is today the most popular party – a change that has happened only since August 10th. Clearly, the BJP has benefited from Anna’s fast and the bunglings of the Congress. Since they are the main opposition party, it is but logical that they should gain. In a democratic set-up, this is a positive sign of political maturity. People in the country have shown that they are not push-overs; instead they can push the inefficient politicians out when push comes to shove.

Honestly, my view is that BJP’s gain is temporary. Here’s why. The BJP is gaining from an anti-Congress wave, not from a pro-BJP one. The anti-Congress wave is because the party is seen to be corrupt. The absurd charges – in terms of the sizes of the scams – have obviously stuck in the minds of the people. Right now, people want the Congress out. But give it a few months and the tide will change. Because the BJP has so many problems of its own. After Karnataka, there are two other states on the boil. The BJP is in deep trouble in MP – now that CBI has taken over the investigation of the Shehla Masood (RTI activist who was shot dead) case. There is a direct involvement of the BJP in this case (By the way, has anyone asked why the CBI – accused by the BJP of being called the Congress Bureau of Investigation – was called in by the BJP state government itself?!). Then there is the case of Gujarat – where the BJP may win a temporary reprieve by ousting the Lok Ayukta appointed by the Governor – where the perception of corruption is growing stronger against Modi. Why is Modi afraid of this Lok Ayukta? After all, he has had a good reputation as the Chief Justice of Gujarat in the past. The future will also see the BJP getting involved in the CWG games scam (where it runs the MCD which was responsible for several large projects) and the 2G scam (where early NDA telecom ministers have also violated the policy). If the BJP is hoping to make a long lasting proposition of being a clean party, it will have to do a lot of image building. Right now, the gains can only be temporary. No one believes the BJP is cleaner than the Congress.

That’s why the Congress must be feeling a little relaxed that Anna’s movement happened so early in the UPA-2 innings. Over the next two years and more, the Congress will make amends. Hopefully, they will be true to the commitment they have given Anna about getting a strong Lokpal Bill (even if all of his clauses are not accepted). Hopefully, they will bring in other laws to show that they mean business. Hopefully, they will scrap a few telecom licenses issued to erring companies. Hopefully, they will do a few good things that will earn them the kudos of the public. Hopefully some of their ministers will have learnt a good lesson! If that happens, the Congress can hope to at least fight an even fight. Else, it should be ready to stay out in the cold for some time.

The real truth is that Anna’s movement may have been apolitical as its organizers claim it was. But its impact on politics has been profound. While the Congress government may not have been toppled at this point, it runs the risk of being toppled at the hustings in 2014. Anna has become the king maker……smartly choosing not to be the king himself. What about his team? They should take the challenge and show what stuff they are made of….

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