Jan Lokpal: Is it a political slugfest or a failed exercise?

Rajarshi Guha Roy

India against Corruption – no, this is not a stylish beginning to the ongoing article but this is the NGO that has been the centre of the Indian political theatre over the last three months. It’s the front organization of the so-called civil society led by Sri Anna Hazare, which is arguably fighting against corruption at all levels of Indian governance machinery. The point is, there has been a great angst and anger of the Indian public, against corruption in governance, which has sedimented over the last few decades and has taken a mammoth shape. Be it the Bofors Arms deal or the recent 2G Scam, there has always existed a shadowy premise of understanding between the politicians and industrialists which has imprinted names like Ottavio Quotrochhi, Telgi, Hasan Ali Khan and recently, A. Raja, Shahid Balwa and many more in the public memory of this country and the root cause of this is corruption, a well-orchestrated ‘give-and-take’ policy which has ruled the roost of the governing machinery for decades.

It seems that the present UPA-II Government is going through the worst patch of its seven-year long tenure. Even a very honest Prime Minister like Dr. Manmohan Singh has become a topic of political mudslinging between politicians of different parties and commentators alike. But we are actually not trying to root out corruption, but we are engaged in a slugfest where identity politics has become the mantra of the day.

It is a customized style of Indians to say in public that they follow the path of resistance as envisaged by ‘the Father of the Nation’ to raise voice against any misdeed of the government of the day. But the saddest part of the story is that Mahatma never envisaged an ‘Any Time Fast’ policy to rout the British from the Indian soil. If someone wants to negotiate with a theoretical opponent, he cannot threaten the process of negotiation in the first place. The best example of this is the Gandhi-Irwin Pact signed in 1931 where Mahatma had to call off the Civil Disobedience Movement and moved on to participate in the first Round Table Conference in London. He actually envisaged fast as the last option in any political battle. It seems that Sri Anna Hazare, arguably an awardee of the epithet ‘The Mahatma of the 21st Century’ bestowed on him by the media (which is as corrupt as our political class, don’t forget that they bring paid news now and then), has forgotten this principle and he is fighting a battle against the Congress Party and not against corruption at present.

The crux of the debate is that when the government agreed to frame a joint drafting committee for the Jan Lokpal Bill, it was evident that the Government was willing to come forward (check facts in our parliamentary history, it is the first time that a government actually wants to table such a bill). But alas! The theatre was rocked by a cameo played by Baba Ramdev (running a business conglomerate running into thousands of crores), who, with the sole intention of grabbing limelight, organized a so called agitation at Ramlila Grounds earlier this month and confused everyone whether that was an agitation against Black Money or a Yoga Shivir! Sadhwi Ritambara, who organized thousands of Kar sevaks on the dreaded day of 6th December, 1992 to hammer the nation’s secular character the biggest blow in it’s history, adorned the stage along with Baba. Sri Anna Hazare, who was already surprised by the support he and his colleagues were getting all over India (to be very correct, from a miniscule portion of India, consisting of the urban middle class, the facebook fraternity and the twitteratti), decided to show solidarity with a dhongee Baba and provided enough ammunition in the hands of the Government to epithetise him ‘an RSS agent’. Nevertheless, the civil society members boycotted a meeting of the drafting committee and went on fast to show solidarity with our celebrated Baba, who did not care about his followers in the face of Police repression, but fled in a kurta and salwar! The point lies here. The civil society members are arguably fighting a tough battle against corruption and not against a party. So the action should be in accordance. Terming this as the ‘Second freedom struggle of India’ is a frivolous and immature remark from the so-called ‘Mahatma of the 21st century’.

It appears that the members of the Government in that committee have agreed to 34 out of 40 proposals tabled by the civil society members and consensus is not being reached at the remaining 6 points , which, among other things, want to make the Prime Minister and the Higher Judiciary accountable to the all-powerful Superman of the country, the Jan Lokpal. This will arguably hurt the institution of the PM and also the Judiciary and as a consequence, will injure the very framework of our own Constitution. The political process has to be respected above all, and threatening the government to fast against the non-acceptance of any of the proposals will make the action of fast itself a redundant exercise. What is the guarantee that the Jan Lokpal will not be corrupt in the first place? No one can answer that. Do we want to form a parallel government in the country? Whom will the Civil Servants and the Government employees adhere to, the Government itself or the Jan Lokpal? The stalwarts of the Civil Society don’t have an answer to all these imminent questions.

We are very weak in facts and figures and most of us don’t know that the IAC forum doesn’t even have a 50,000 member strength. It represents a miniscule proportion of the Indian population, which is 1.2 + Billion according to the Census 2011 and it is not representing the true problem of the system. Even if Jan Lokpal becomes a reality, it will not have enough ammunition to combat the crony corporate lobby and crony capitalists, who are actually at the root of every corruption in the country. A mere shadow boxing with the political class will not help the cause but it is directly or indirectly hurting the institution of parliamentary democracy in our country.  If one wants to bell the cat, he should usurp the benefits ill-fetched by the corporate lobbies as a result of crony capitalism.

Lastly, the big but imminent question is, has the civil society become the opposition party to the Government? It is a dangerous sign, as the civil society has, in the process of this slugfest,  usurped the position of the main opposition party of the country. It’s the duty of Bharatiya Janta Party to come to play a constructive role in the making of a strong Lokpal Bill and not throwing inconsequential comments from the sidelines. The revolution to achieve a corruption-free India has to come through the political process and not through self-appointed ‘freedom – fighters’. Moreover, it’s a case of identity politics since many noted civil society members, like Aruna Roy and Harsh Mandar have strongly expressed their disappointment over the route taken by Anna and his comrades. So, the question is arising, “Who are actually the civil society?” Creation of any vacuum in the political gallery will only invite chaos and India cannot afford that at the moment. What it needs is a strong anti-corruption Bill which will bring back the trust of the Indian public in the political class. And it still has a long way to go, first through the Cabinet and then through both the Houses of the Parliament, so it’s better if we don’t jump the gun and give the parliamentary procedure it’s due time to be in fruitful action.

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"Jan Lokpal: Is it a political slugfest or a failed exercise?" by @bongbuzz

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  1. Very well-researched post. You are right! A non-elected body holding the judiciary and PM accountable to it is a threat to democracy! And who the hell is the so called civil society? Some self-appointed people?!

    What we need is cleansing of the political system. We are tired of corrupt and inefficient leaders. Strong anti-corruption laws and setting minimum educational standards as the criteria to fight elections are what I’d like to see immediately. We surely don’t need this drama of identity politics that is being played out there.

  2. Truly a very well-researched article no doubt and though I agree with the most of it yet I must say that the entire Anna Hazare/ Baba Ramdev stint (not delving into the unnecessary details of their credibilty here) has been a good wake up call for the scam-torn Indian Government!
    Yes a parallel Government with powers to question the PM and the lawmakers of the land with none to question their own credibility is absurd, but so is the fact that in a country where majority of the population is below poverty level a certain Mr.Kalmadi after being jailed for usurping hundreds of crores of taxpayers’ money (and that too after much legal hullabaloo) has the guts to demand an air-conditioner in his cell.
    I, being an Indian citizen, do not demand a parallel Government, which at one point will surely be as corrupt as its other half, but instead demand the laws to be made more strict, more firm against corruption and prompt and strict IMPLEMENTATION of the same.
    P.S
    1. What does one really do with hundreds of crores of Rupees earned illegally at the age of 67( Kalmadi)???
    2. Is the Government able to track and seize the money that is present is various Swiss Bank accounts of these scammers??? Heard the late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan had his illegal crores tucked away in some Swiss Bank…

  3. With all due credit to Rajarshi for his well researched article I would only like to elaborate the issue.
    Firstly a great percentage of youth are not aware what exactly they are supporting for by supporting Anna. Though Anna remains a respected figure in my eyes his ways are just too simple to be functional in such a complex entity as democratic India. Prime Minister is the focal point of our parliamentary power and he needs to take decisions which might be necessary to prevent imminent evil at his whim. A scrutiny body over his head will harm the sovereignty of this nation. Our constitution is the most fundamental of all rule books. It starts with ‘We the people of India’. the Govt is elected by the eligible population of the country by a fair democratic process. No one can ever doubt that. Suddenly if the youth because of their inherent over zealous nature and constant instigation by cheap publicity seeking media houses decides to upturn the laws is not acceptable. Yes the system is flawed. Corruption is rampant everywhere. But if we ask ourselves what would we have done if in position of power and able to earn loads of easy cash the truth will be unpleasant. We need to have stronger anti corruption laws but not at the expense of our constitution. I truly believe we have an honest Prime Minister in Dr Manmohan Singh. i will trust him more than an half literate Ramdev anyday. Anna my solidarity is with you and I wish you all the best for your fight against corruption, however I dont agree upon your method. There might be magic relief if Ramdev discovers some yogic cure to corruption. (NB: He claimed that he could cure homosexuality with yoga. Guess our own Rituporno should pay a visit.)

    Even with all the hullabaloo about corruption the country is making a steadfast journey in the positive direction. Agreed to many poor people to call it a success story after 64 years of Independence. But aint we to blame to as its us who have selcted the Govt all the time. so next time we go out to vote, we should concentrate on corruption issues more than caste and quotas. We had a party come into power some years ago mainly because of an issue about a single mandir/masjid issue. Is that not truly incredible India.
    Good luck Anna but remember 100 mein 99 beiiman fir bhi mera bharat mahan.
    Jai Hind

  4. Thanks for re-sharing this on Facebook. A must read for the ‘Facebook’ intelligentsia who were crying Lokpal! Lokpal! without going into the heart of the matter.