Monday, August 15, 2011

Jai ho !!

It would be interesting to see how the show-down between the Government and the ‘civil activists’ pan out in the coming days. Will the government with its spin machinery and administrative might manage to scuttle it – like they succeeded in the case of Ramdev or will it fizzle out under the weight of their own inner contradictions, rifts and cracks that may open up thru’ the ruling party’s backdoor machinations ?

Some felt the movement may have lost steam in the long interregnum. I feel it's only gathered momentum. I was quite surprised the other day - when our domestic, a quiet sort of a chap otherwise, said - seeing Anna on TV - "Accha aadmi hai". I asked if he would support him - pat came his emphatic reply "Karta hoon na..". I sensed the same mood travelling across the country in the last few months.

Do the Congress and UPA Government crisis-managers and spin masters genuinely think l that, by hurling accusations at Anna Hazare & Co at this 11th hour they will be able to swing public opinion against him ? They must be kidding themselves in believing that raking up a 10 year old issue of Rs 2.2 lakhs allegedly spent by the trust on his Birthday celebrations - would demolish his moral standing for leading an anti-corruption crusade.

Frankly, the public would care a damn about Rs 2.2 lakhs controversy or any other skeletons from the closet that may be taken out at the last minute by the government’s dirty tricks department. They know how crores are spent to celebrate the birthdays of political leaders and although there may be no commission of enquiry to probe where those funds come from - the people have no illusions about who actually pay for such obscene extravaganzas. So, if the villagers had decided to celebrate the birthday of the man who has so selflessly devoted his life to change their lot – by spending a couple of lakhs , it’s simply not going to cut ice with the masses at large.

And, make no mistakes – we are not talking here about the “relative scale” – lest some of you are tempted to spring the argument that no amount of corruption can be considered too small. The issue as we all realize is much larger. If the surveys conducted by the various media houses are anything to go by – the nation is seething with anger against corruption – which they have been silently suffering for so long and has now reached Himalyan dimensions – and for the time they have found a credible vehicle for expressing their dissent.

I think the Sibals, Chidambarams and Salman Khurishids are missing the woods for the trees. We Indians love symbols. And, all of us understand that Anna is just a symbol for a much larger cause. Any other person in his place – say, an Arvind Kejriwal or a Kiran Bedi – would NOT have captured the imagination of the people in the way Anna has been able to with his beatific smile, Gandhian attire and the almost saintly simplicity and directness of his communication – which easily understood by the lowest common denominator, sans the rhetoric and intellectualisation of the establishment spokes persons or even his own compatriots. On the other hand, Ramdev’s credibility and integrity was suspect from the beginning. He had always had a huge set of detractors and skeptics who doubted both his antecedents and claims. It’s reasonable to believe that, he had been propped up by the government and, in the end , became victim of his own charlatan tricks.

But, the situation with Anna is far more tricky as the government had learnt in the first round itself. Thereafter, they had thought - trying to be clever by half – that they would trap them in the committee but had probably underestimated their tenacity. In their hearts – therefore, they knows it could be a ‘no win’ situation for them – unless they are able to sabotage the movement from within – which at the moment looks difficult. Otherwise, if they crack down on the protesters – it may trigger off wide spread agitations around the country. And, if they allow the “anashan” to continue – it has the potential of bringing the government tumbling. So, in a way they are faced with a Hobson’s choice – a mess they have only themselves to blame for.

I don’t also buy the argument that – in a parliamentary democracy one should have to come only through an ‘electoral” route. If that was true no popular movement – would have happened in any country. It is the very argument of corruption that goes against this logic. Strangely some of our intellectuals and political pundits seem to be supporting such a view. From their tweets and articles – denigrating any ‘extra-parliamentary’ movement, it would almost appear that they would prefer corruption to continue than any destabilization of life in the capital. With cost of elections being what they are today (in states like Maharashtra and Karnataka – a Loksabha ticket is rumoured to cost upwards of Rs 30 crores) – would any “civil” representative ever contest an election without being corrupt ? It’s laughable that, ministers are questioning the funding behind these agitations – would they care to explain how political rallies are conducted. Young Manish Tiwari - in his obvious eagerness to impress the first family - sounds like a modern day Goebbels when he says that, Team Anna is corrupt from “top to bottom”.

True the Lokpal may not be the panacea or “magic bullet”, to borrow a term from the colourful vocabulary of our articulate Prime Minister’s men – but it would , at least, drive the fear of God among our rulers to – if nothing else – temper their greed to a more "human" level, from the diabolical proportions it seemed to have reached now.

Long live the republic. Jai ho !!