Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kiran Bedi's speech: War of perception through Media

In the ongoing 'agitation against corruption' after 10 longs days of protests, agitation, fasting and difficult diplomatic and arm twisting parleys between the govt. and Team Anna, yesterday was a comparatively low rabble-rousing headline day.

The media is playing out to the gallery, be it in favour of Team Anna or against it. Yesterday was a day when in the game of media perception ping pong, Team Anna was targeted.

Apart from Rahul Gandhi's speech in parliament - which itself was directionless and added to confusion, rather than offer a solution - there were not much visuals to relay in a loop and still keep viewers interested.

Kiran Bedi's speech and Ompuri's speech were targeted as being, what else, 'unconstitutional, vituperative, against democracy, etc; *yawns*
What they said was nothing new nor was it a feeling held by a few, but their bad luck the nitpickers got a chance to pick on them on a 'low breaking news day'.

It is interesting to see how a single speech is presented in two different forms from two different media houses, showing its an all out media war in a large proportion.

First, is a highly emotional Kiran Bedi talking about how MPs have only extracted money out of the people and a frustrated organizer's outburst at the inaction of govt. in response to a 74 year old's 11 days of fasting.

This is from The Times of India and shows her talking about the MPs. It has been edited to not show the elements that might be deemed embarrassing for Team Anna.

Second video is from, it naturally being as always in favour of the ruling dispensation has put only the parts that seem embarrassing to Team Anna.

The truth is a combination of both these videos. The crowd has been awaiting for a long time now for some action. The wear out of a prolonged protest was setting in and Kiran Bedi just tried to keep the crowd amused in a manner that would keep them interested, but alas the 'disconnected-from-reality-intellects' expected her to speak always with a stiff upper lip.

Time these guys just woke up... A 'Jaago Re' campaign required for the intellects now?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What detractors of Anna Hazare's campaign need to know

Detractors of Anna Hazare's call for a 'protest against corruption', might have been shocked with the disconnect they had with the reality.

I am not talking about the political parties which dragged themselves down with their self-destructive rhetoric nor the ones that have flip-flopped between supporting 'India against Corruption' on the streets but opposing it within the parliament.

A few 'intellectuals' had predicted that Anna Hazare and his team - lets not call them civil society as it was only one of the many terms they could have used- would be largely disappointed when they go ahead for their protest on 16th August.

Some people say the protest gained prominence when the govt. shot itself in the foot by arresting Anna and putting him in Tihar Jail, the same one which is housing Raja, Kalmadi and Kanimozhi - all major role players of recently unearthed scams.

Anna would have become a phenomena with his fast, irrespective of his arrest. His April fast had evoked strong reactions as well, without he being arrested. What happened with his arrest was that the govt. dragged itself further down on credibility index.

The protest would anyways have been a success and Congress could have gained some credence if it had still agreed to table both the versions of the Lok Pal bill. But seemingly, the recovery of election expenditure, coupled with lost opportunities for postings within organisation and government have made the political managers of the Congress lethargic, over-confident or arrogant or all of the above, which resulted in committing political suicide and getting alienated from the masses. The blunder that Congress allowed to happen is that it became an almost Congress vs Team Anna war. If it had allowed opposition parties also onboard the Drafting committee, the damage inflicted upon itself could have been reduced.

The other point that is being made out by 'intellectuals' is that people generally do not vote; they wont even know the names of the municipal corporators of their region; protest is being seen as an alternative to voting, as things can now be seen to be done by organizing protests, etc;

I would disagree with most of them. It is true that middle class is the one that shuns itself from voting and the poor sell their votes and rich buy politicians, leaving out an exasperated middle class whose delusion keeps growing at its helplessness. But it is not to be generalized that all of poor sell their votes or all of middle class is indifferent to elections.

The ones who vote are the ones who will come out to protest. The indifferent class is neither represented nor is active enough to bother to protest. While the ones who would bother to come out to protest peacefully would be the ones who go to vote and would be further interested in the political process because frankly there is no alternative to it. A fight against corruption and protests of such magnitude are not a regular occurance nor can anyone mobilise support with regularity, even Anna for that matter. For anyone to think they will have policies in their favour by simply protesting would be naive, which the people are not.

It is neither undemocratic nor tyrannical for the electorate to propose changes in laws or give constructive feedback about how they want them to be. The govt. takes opinion before formulating any laws and keeps constantly acting on the feedback while making amendments. There is opposition to this bill because they are directly going to be hit due to this bill and want to get only their version out.

It is misplaced to say that a failure to see a magic wand ending corruption, would distance the middle class from the electoral process. If anything, it would imbibe confidence that things can change, because the agitation has already brought a change of stance from the govt. It wont be the hope that would die, but the general cynicism about politics that would decrease. NOBODY is looking at Lokpal to cast a magic spell and end corruption.

This agitation is at crossroads, how it shapes from here doesnt rest upon the Team Anna nor the people who are protesting, but the political class and think tanks who have to now reciprocate. It can be utilised positively by the intelligentsia to make the youth more politically literate and let the nation gain by their active participation or dismiss this gathering of disgruntled agitators as a jingoistic blip that would disappear with the next national distraction.

Moreover, the trajectory moving forward with Team Anna is already present in the form of
(a)Right to Reject - rejecting all the candidates and choosing none of the above option making a re-election compulsory;
(b)Right to Recall - constituents can recall a misgoverning MP between elections too and a candidate cannot visit his constituency only once every five years;
These are the electoral reforms that might have a massive bearing on the electoral process.

The critics were there when RTI was being debated. The cynics were fighting tooth and nail to get the file notifications out of the purview of RTI. But now the same intellects have used it for their advantage. The same govt. is advertising it as a medium of transparency.

If past record is anything to go by, with RTI and other laws that Anna's agitations have bought, it could be safe to say, Janlok Pal or Right to Reject and Right to Recall can only strengthen the democratic set-up with accountability becoming a prime virtue.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Walk your talk - I did my one bit, now your turn

By now we have all gone through the ritual of watching the comparison between Lokpal bill and Jan Lokpal Bill.
By now it is clear to most of us that Govts. Lok pal bill is nothing but a sham.

We might have reservations about Jan Lokpal in its totality, i.e. all the clauses might not be in the best interest of the nation in case a corrupt bigoted person becomes a Lokpal.
We have seen the consequences of assuming the people chosen to do a job will do that job honestly. We might need better checks and balances, before giving as much power to a single authority as proscribed by the Jan Lokpal Bill.

But... what we all need to agree upon is that the current system has failed to maintain propriety of public office and additional checks are required to arrest the onslaught of corruption on our society.

One point worth mentioning is that neither corruption is new nor post-independence phenomena, it is as old as the famous oldest business in the world - prostitution. But that doesn't mean we let prostitution become mainstream and allow it unabated. Similarly, corruption in such a massive scale and as destructive as much as it is dragging our country's progress, development and success cannot be accepted with a sense of cynicism. When we strive for zero tolerance will we achieve something acceptable. Indifference wont work.

Sense of cynicism is all prevalent when a change is sought. The same people who are saying, 'Kuch nahi honewala' had kept saying 'Kuch nahi honewala' when Anna Hazare and his team had fought for RTI (Right to Information Act). Today UPA itself is advertising RTI. RTI has helped in unearthing a lot of scams. RTI is helping people get their jobs done which previously would have been impossible without bribe.

The experience with RTI activism could be a benchmark for the Jan Lokpal to take shape. Indians have unequivocally slammed indifference and lethargy by supporting Anna Hazare. This is India's turn to shout back that we wont take the crap thrown at us quietly anymore.

I visited Azad Maidan today albeit for a brief period, but yes the sense of having contributed is giving me a pleasant feeling. The atmosphere was electrifying, something that cant be explained. But something you would want to narrate to your grandchildren. You MUST be there to experience it.

Here are some pics...

People were getting arrested and were being put in police vans. There was a queue of police vans to arrest people.

BhArat MAta ki jai! Vande MAtaram were the slogans that filled the air. Most people couldnt talk on their cellphones. As the sound of sloganeering was quite high.

Raghu Ram of MTV Roadies fame was present at the stage. Music director Vishal of the Vishal-Shekhar duo also addressed the crowd.

People were queuing up to court arrest. The police was arresting people and taking them to a place far off and dropping them off. Police vans made several rounds like this. The arrested people - young, old, children, men, women, able, handicapped - all were returning to the queue to court arrest.

Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik wanted to reach the stage but just could not find his way amongst the sloganeering crowd. He was then surrounded by the press and electronic media. He returned to the gate and held an impromptu press conference.

Yours Truly.

The permission at Azad Maidan is for 7 days and make your existence count. Give even a half hour to the cause and help yourself...

I wouldnt want to gloat about it nor sermonize but frankly although I could easily do more, I feel I have walked my talk, did my one bit. Now, its your turn...


Update :1 Thanks to Shakti, who commented here and asked for my permission to publish this blog in DNA, this blog has appeared in print in DNA Mumbai edition in the 'Around the blog' section on page 6 on 22nd August 2011.