What started in Jantar Mantar as Anna Hazare leading a protest against the all pervasive corruption in Government has become an unprecedented nation wide mobilization of people and minds on the issue of governance and corruption in India.
It was scoffed at then by the Delhi elite – the establishment friendly Editors went to lengths in describing this first as a protest by a few, then it became the protest of the middle class and so on and so forth. The establishment lived in denial then and have been dragged kicking and screaming into the reality of peoples anger, frustration and exasperation with the status quo.
While the debate has now moved on to the nitty gritty of the Jan Lokpal institution that is being proposed as the Anti Corruption law – there are few significant points that have already been established and are worth reiterating. Firstly – that people of India are fed up and beyond exasperation on Corruption and the form of Governance they are experiencing .
Secondly – that the ruling clique/establishment and their friends in media and elsewhere are hopelessly out of touch with the pulse of nation and mood of the people.
The second is particularly worrying. Some weeks ago, I wrote about the growing distance between Delhi and the rest of India and the idea of India. Take a look at what the response of the Delhi clique has been – Establishment friendly editors first dismissed the Anna Hazare movement as a ‘middle class’/ ‘elite’ (as if that somehow disqualifies them from protesting!), smug and smirking ministers (smug about their knowledge about constitutional law and criminal law) first tried smearing the leadership of the protesters, when that failed tried a bit of stick by arresting Anna Hazare and his team, and when that failed resorted to every present argument of conspiracy theories of mysterious forces (including USA, RSS, foreign countries) being behind a elaborate plan to destabilize India – (Conspiracy theorists would love this – imagine this millions of Indians being enrolled into a foreign enemy led revolution!). If all this didn’t have you shaking your head in disbelief and increduility, you have other actors joining this tragicomedy –ranging from description of protesters as kool-aid drinkers by a tech guru or as Taliban by Arundhati Roy and a group of others wanting to jump onto this bandwagon not wanting to lose the sudden opportunity of publicity and visibility with their versions of bills (without even having one !), or Ram vilas Paswan in Parliament arguing that Jan Lokpal Bill was anti minority - to be challenged by Ali Anwar, JDU MP who should make us all proud of what secularism is all about – !
And if all this wasn’t enough to get you shaking your head, then this will – the conduct/loss of political instinct of a Government popularly elected with a large mandate just 2 years ago, even more incredulous was the response in the last 48 hours – First, Faced with a deterioting and declining health of Annaji, the Prime Ministers statement in Parliament states his recently discovered ‘respect for Annaji and for his idealism’. It’s a different matter that this respect for his idealism and his efforts at fighting corruption weren’t more in evidence when Annaji was being arrested and hauled away to Tihar Jail (that housed former Cabinet and Political colleagues) or over the last 5 months when smug ministers were running circles around Annas team in a ‘up the garden path’ negotiation!.
Next, we have the collective sigh of relief from all Indians when they hear the Government promising to discuss the Jan Lokpal bill in Parliament – a sign of a compromise , followed in a few hours by the young leader of the Congress suggesting that a compromise was far from a reality because he believed in a far more longer term solution to the problem of corruption which included Consitutitional amendments etc,- in effect telling a country drowning in a deluge of corruption to swim in it for some more time while a longer term shelter is prepared - leaving all of us in a situation wondering what the Government is really going to do .
There’s also a new mantra being chanted by the Delhi elite – Its called the Supremacy of the Parliament theory. It’s clear they don’t understand our democracy, republic or constitution. When Dr Ambedkar wrote our constitution - he prefaced it with ‘We the people’. It means that People are supreme. The concept of Parliamentary supremacy is only vis a vis the other arms of our democracy ie Executive and Judiciary. To suggest that Parliament is supreme over the People is to distort the fundamental DNA of our constitution.
So, as representatives of the people within Parliament, it is the beholden duty of MPs to respond to this outpouring of views and concerns – voiced by our fellow citizens and to quote Thomas Jefferson, “A little Rebellion now and then is a good thing. It’s a medicine necessary for the sound health of the Government”. Jai Anna
This appeared as an article in Sunday Standard and New Indian Express on Sunday, August 28th, 2011