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.


  1. <<< The ones who vote are the ones who will come out to protest. >>> This is absolutely true another thing is people who protest/vote can influence some of those who did not protest if the latter ever to chose to vote.This hidden factor also adds some weight to effect of these protests than is normally perceived.

  2. //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.//

    It was more of a self goal by GOI. people were forced to think "is this a democrcay?? a 74-old year old was arrested just before he was about to protest peacefully, that too in the country of gandhi", this thought was enough to built a connect and acted as catalyst for the movement..

  3. As per one of the agenda points Anna has is to say no for any uneligible candidate on voting machine will prove on which way our democracy is moving.