Krishnaraj Rao for BeyondHeadlines
Whenever public anger spills out on the streets and media goes into overdrive, a new political party is born or gains ascendancy. Many a new party in its infancy appears like a socio-political movement. When the dust settles, the movement is over, and only the party remains.
LOOK AT A FLASHBACK:
- JANATA PARTY. Do you remember the Nav Nirman riots of 1974, which started in Gujarat and spread to the rest of the country? I was nine years old then, and I still remember how “Lok Nayak” Jay Prakash Narayan gave a call for women to bang their thalis and vaatis together at a specific times of the day to protest against corruption of the Indira Gandhi government. The riots triggered the Emergency and the Baroda Dynamite Case. All of this resulted in the rise of the Janata Party. Its leaders – Morarji Desai and Chaudhari Charan Singh — became Prime ministers. BUT THEY DID NOT ERADICATE CORRUPTION OR REFORM THE INDIAN DEMOCRACY.
- JANATA DAL. Do you remember V P Singh? Remember how he was called “Mr Cleaner”, as opposed to “Mr Clean” Rajiv Gandhi? Remember the commotion he created around Reservations and implementation of Mandal Commission Report? On the back of those passions, V P Singh became Prime Minister.
- BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY. In 1984, when Vishwa Hindu Parishad pledged to build a Ram temple where the Babri Masjid stood. For a whole decade, Hindutva passions created scenes similar to what we are witnessing on TV currently. Some of my cousins in Mangalore used to carry photographs of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in their pockets, and kiss them, whispering, “BJP Swami! BJP Swami!” BJP rose to power. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister between 1998 and 2004. BUT THE TEMPLE AT RAM JANAM BHOOMI WAS NOT BUILT.
- SHIV SENA. In 1966, Bal Thackeray floated the idea that Mumbai belongs to the Marathi manoos (locals). For some years, Gujaratis, South Indians, Muslims and UP bhaiyyas etc lived in fear of being sent packing, and the Shiv Sena party became a permanent presence in the politics of this state. From 1995 to 1999, Shiv Sena and BJP were together in power in Maharashtra. This alliance continues to be in power in Mumbai Municipal Corporation. But even after renaming of streets, setting up hawker stalls grandly called Shiv Vada-Pav at every street corner, forcing shop signs to be written in Marathi, and renaming Sahar International Airport and Victoria Terminus after Chhatrapati Shivaji, MARATHI MANOOS IS STILL THE UNDERDOG.
- MAHARASHTRA NAVNIRMAN SENA. In 2006, Raj Thackeray started a fresh onslaught of the son-of-the-soil ideology in Maharashtra. At that point in time, it appeared as though UP bhaiyyas and Biharis would be sent packing, leaving all the jobs vacant for Maharashtrians. Today, MNS party has a sizeable presence in Maharashtra’s legislature and Municipal Corporations of many cities, but the BASIC PROMISE TO THE MARATHI PEOPLE REMAINS UNFULFILLED.
There are such examples in every State.
Whenever a new NETA arrives on the scene, he wears the cap of LEADER OF THE REVOLUTION and BELOVED OF THE PEOPLE, and marks his entrance with an overwhelmingly popular response. The followers are full of unquestioning faith and euphoria, and they swear to die for their leader.
Except in Maharashtra, most supporters who are fasting probably heard about Anna Hazare only a few months ago, thanks to Arvind Kejriwal’s mass-contact campaign. But now they say they are willing to die for Anna! This is testimony to the power of a determined individual aided by 24×7 news channels, bulk-SMSes, Facebook and Twitter.
Granted, both Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal are giants. They have done immense work for society, and they are both pioneering activists. Nonetheless, we should hold up their actions to public scrutiny. EACH ACTION OF EVERY LEADER IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN MUST BE TESTED ON THE TOUCHSTONE OF PUBLIC INTEREST. This applies people like Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh, and it applies in equal measure to Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare. (And yes, it applies in equal measure to me also.)
And so, try to look beyond the self-righteous footage, the soundbites and media hype. Consider what I am writing on its merits. Question everybody’s motives, including mine. Read this and think. Ask questions. Verify everything. Please think for yourself.
TEAM ANNA’S UN-GANDHIAN WAYS:
A. UNTRUTH. CAMPAIGN BASED ON IGNORANCE OF MASSES. You should focus on whether the Jan Lokpal Bill mooted by Team Anna Hazare is superior and more effective than the government version? Whether it is more implementable and will have greater deterrent effect on corrupt people? Most of frenzied people fasting in various cities have not read the two versions (Jan Lokpal Bill http://www.
B. NOT MORAL FORCE. CAMPAIGN BASED ON MEDIA. The Gandhian method of Satyagraha is based on moral force, not on feeding a media frenzy. There is nothing Gandhian about creating a campaign that depends on creating a visual impact through Lokpal Bill burning and candlelight walks, rather than creating a change of heart in the opponent. What is currently being used is brute force of media.
C. NO HUMILITY. CAMPAIGN IS BASED ON ARROGANCE. To create a change of heart in a Gandhian way, you have to be meek and mostly silent – and not boastful about making governments fall. You have to be introspective and use “soul-force”. Satyagraha means Satya + Agraha – literally, the Command by Truth Force. Arm-twisting and making the other side look terrible is not Satyagraha of any kind; these are political tactics traditionally used by opposition parties.
D. UNTRUTH. MYTH OF GOOD VERSUS EVIL. The public perception has been engineered that “Team Anna = Anti-Corruption, UPA Govt = Pro-Corruption”. The soundbites on television are showing that the supporters think they are fighting against “corruption”, and the UPA government is obstructing them because it wants to protect corruption.
E. UNTRUTH. UNNECESSARILY CRYING FOUL. It is the duty of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal to educate people that there is something called Rule of Law, and that if you protest by some methods, you may expect the police to legitimately clamp down on you with prohibitory orders. Yes, you may defy the orders and protest, but if the police arrests you, please don’t cry foul! Being arrested or attracting police action is a normal part of civil disobedience in all civilized nations; why portray the cops as villains?
F. VIOLENCE. RAMMING A LEGISLATION DOWN THE NATION’S THROAT. There is a legitimate way of introducing Bills in parliament. To introduce Jan Lokpal, there are constitutionally acceptable methods available to citizens. Alternatively, to ask for changes in a Bill such as govt version of Lokpal, there are ample opportunities available to all of us. After availing such opportunities, one may further create public pressure for acceptance of such changes by protesting and fasting. But trying to ram down a fully-formed Jan Lokpal Bill into Parliament by arm-twisting the government defies all Constitutional logic, and is extremely arrogant. It is an insult to the citizen of India, leave alone parliamentarians. There is nothing Gandhian about this!
G. NOT PEACEFUL. CONFRONTATIONIST & TU-TU MEIN-MEIN APPROACH. Any Gandhian will tell you that when you are doing Satyagraha, you cannot play the blame game with people on the other side of the table. You can’t keep running to the media and running down the government while negotiations are in progress. If you really want the government to consider your terms, you have to adopt a gentle and respectful approach.
H. SUBJECTIVE. LACK OF INTROSPECTION. A Gandhian approach is marked by a constant awareness of ones own faults, and a readiness to correct oneself even mid-stream. Satyagraha demands a constant attention to the correctness of ends and means. One is not a Satyagrahi if one holds if that the end justifies the means!
I. VIOLENT. PROVOKING DIRECTIONLESS ANGER. The present method is provoking anger against “the system”, which is not directed against anything in particular. It targets “corruption” which is a nebulous, all-inclusive term. Charges of corruption can be leveled against anybody and everybody. In short, this campaign provokes ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT SENTIMENTS.
J. NO COMPASSION. ACTING IRRESPONSIBLY, PROVOKING VIOLENCE. Angry sentiments and mass mobilizations against “corruption” can be ignited at any time, and erupt into mob fury. Anna’s rhetoric (such as “If Gandhiji’s methods don’t work, then Shivaji’s methods) is not entirely peaceful. Angry mobs are being mobilized in every city; even a couple of stray incidents by over-zealous unemployed persons can start a nationwide chain reaction of stone-throwing, arson, looting etc – all in the name of anti-corruption! Gandhians are supposed to set up a mood of calm contemplation and prayer while fasting.
HOME TRUTHS ABOUT ANNA HAZARE:
1) IS THIS THE FIRST TIME ANNA HAZARE USED THE ‘I WON’T LEAVE THE JAIL’ TACTIC? No, he has done this in the past. See this video of May 2009, where he is standing in the Sahyadri government guest house in Mumbai and boasting about how Maharashtra government is afraid of him.http://www.youtube.com/watch?
2) DOES ANNA HAZARE TRULY UPHOLD PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC RIGHT TO PROTEST PEACEFULLY? I staged an indefinite fast at Ralegan Siddhi in October 2010, from October 6 to October 12 (and thereafter in Mumbai till October 14). For three days and nights, I stayed outside Anna Hazare’s room in the temple where he lives, without even a placard or slogan. Anna knew why I was fasting. And then, in front of my eyes, Anna called his Panchayat members and told them to call the police. The next day, a police jeep picked me up and produced me before the Taluka Magistrate. “The village panchayat has passed a resolution that except Anna, nobody else can fast in the village,” he said. Neither police, nor village panchayat, nor Anna’s office gave me a copy of this resolution. The village temple is a public place where some people sleep every night. Read this news item:http://tinyurl.com/mirror-
3) IS ANNA HAZARE SERIOUS ABOUT CORRUPTION? To his great credit, Anna has achieved much by engagement with Maharashtra government. He has created an anti-corruption mechanism that is as powerful as the RTI Act (which also Anna helped to father). Anna’s Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan Nyas, has branches all over Maharashtra, and its office-bearers enjoy a privileged place in the new mechanism. But, instead of promoting the use of this mechanism, they are letting it wither away through disuse. Details: http://tinyurl.com/corruption-
4) DOES ANNA HAZARE UPHOLD DEMOCRATIC VALUES & INSTITUTIONS? Anna’s village Ralegan Siddhi is a “model village”, with no liquor shops, no shops selling gutka etc. Why? Because Anna outlawed it. Anna is the undisputed raja of this tiny kingdom, and the village panchayat is subservient.
Anna cleaned up this village by beating up those who drank liquor, smashing the liquor shops etc. Read http://
Anna Hazare runs some trusts and societies. One of them, Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan Nyas, has branches all over Maharashtra. Office-bearers in these organizations are there by Anna’s pleasure. These organizations are virtually a one-man show. Please find out whether there are actual activities happening in your city or district; you will be sorely disappointed.
5) DOES ANNA HAZARE NURTURE A SECOND LINE OF LEADERS? In all his decades as a social activist, Anna Hazare has not allowed the emergence of a number-two. He does not entrust his work to anybody. In that sense, Anna is not a democratic person by temperament. Try to find Anna’s second-in-command if you can! (Arvind Kejriwal is not a second-in-command.)
6) ARE ANNA HAZARE’S ASSOCIATES FRIENDLY & TRANSPARENT PEOPLE? Anna’s associates and are secretive, evasive and non-committal. Even the members of Anna’s organizations have a hard time tracking his movements, meeting him, or holding him accountable for anything. They are stonewalled and sidetracked.
7) DOES ANNA HAZARE SHARE CREDIT? Ask Anna Hazare how the Right to Information Act came about, and you will hear a litany about how HE fasted, and what all HE did. There is no mention of Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, who played key roles.
Those of you who are swearing to die for Anna Hazare, please take a word of caution. He is not a democratic person. He is at best a benevolent dictator with very strong ideas of right and wrong. Yes, he is a clean and morally upright person, but no, he is not accountable or answerable to anybody. He is a law unto himself. And he is not exactly a Gandhian. (But please don’t take my word for it; find out for yourself.)
WHY I FEEL THIS CAMPAIGN IS LEADING TOWARDS PARTY FORMATION:
a) POPULAR DEMANDS THAT ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO FULFILL.Making an impossible demand enables you to get people’s support for a very long time, and build a party structure around such support.By isolating and demonizing the government in power, it enables you to build yourself up as an opposition party for the coming elections. A similar tactic was employed by Bharatiya Janata Party when they demanded demolition of Babri Masjid and building of Ram temple.
If getting a good legislation was genuinely the objective of this campaign, then I think a more conciliatory approach would have been adopted. If it was their aim to make a dent in the problem of corruption, then they would have had more acceptable and do-able targets for the UPA government. For instance, they might have supported the government Lokpal Bill but pressed for some crucial amendments. And then they would have focused on tight implementation of the key provisions.
Instead, Team Anna is asking for things that would make it impossible for government, parliament or judiciary to function i.e. (i) Prime Minister should be under Lok Pal scanner even during his term in office. (ii) Judiciary, MLAs, MPs, bureaucrats, clerks, peons etc should all be under the same authority. (iii) Life imprisonment should be awarded for corruption. If conceded, these demands would not only make it impossible for the Prime Minister and Judges to function, but also strike fear into the heart of judges and officials who deal with hundreds of people every month, and are forced to displease many. The Jan Lokpal Bill would make put such people continuous targets for mala-fide complaints. Who would want to do such a job in such dangerous conditions? Such a legislation would start a witch-hunt!
b) NO-WIN SITUATION FOR UPA GOVT. When you continually goad and embarrass a party in power, you make it very unrewarding to concede to your demands. The current situation is a No-Win situation for the UPA government: If it concedes Anna’s demands and tabled Jan Lokpal Bill before Parliament, then it would get no credit for it, and Manmohan Singh would be projected as a very weak PM. If this happened, the government would be overwhelmed by copy-cat agitations in the months to follow; therefore that is not an option. If they seek to seek Anna Hazare halfway, they have to contend with his take-it-or-leave-it kind of stance, and they will end up looking weak. If Anna Hazare dies fasting, or if they drive him away for any reason, then the UPA government will surely be portrayed as a brutal regime. Creating a No-Win situation for the government MAKES SENSE ONLY IF YOU WISH THAT YOUR DEMANDS SHOULD NOT BE MET.
c) CROWD PLEASING TACTICS. Many features of Jan Lokpal Bill were written in by Arvind Kejriwal during his public consultations in different cities. People would raise their hands and give their suggestions, and Arvind would say (for instance), “Good idea! The maximum punishment should be life imprisonment! I’ll add that into the Jan Lokpal Bill.” Needless to say, you don’t have to worry about implementability if crowd-pleasing is the ultimate objective; you can promise all things to everybody!
d) POLITICAL STRATEGICIANS. For years, I have seen that Arvind Kejriwal was dreaming up shortcuts to break into the system and gain power for himself and a small power-group including Kiran Bedi, J M Lyngdoh and Prashant Bhushan. Meanwhile, Praful Vora and Mayank Gandhi have been strategizing for years, trying to make Jagrut Nagrik Manch (JaNaM) a party for political aspirants among middle-class citizens in Mumbai and mainly Juhu-Vile Parle area. This year, both Mayank and Praful have neglected JaNaM, although Municipal elections are round the corner. Why? I think that it is because they are achieving the same objectives through the imminent launch of the Jan Lokpal Party or India Against Corruption (IAC) Party.
e) BUILDING A MASS-CONTACT DATABASE. All those millions who have replied to bulk SMSes, given missed calls to signify support, or responded to opinion polls are the automatic supporters of JL or IAC Party. With such a large database of supporters, and a catch-all please-all objective of “anti-corruption movement”, you have a winning formula!
Friends, am I against formation of Jan Lokpal or India Against Corruption Party? No; it may be worthwhile and necessary to have such a party. But I am definitely against playing on people’s sentiments and fooling the public to secretly build the mass base for such a party. And yes, I am against anybody fooling around with an elected government, with the administration and with the law-and-order situation for such political objectives.
The framing of a very beneficial Whistle-Blowers’ Bill (Public Interest Disclosure Bill) was subverted by Arvind Kejriwal, and the Jan Lokpal Bill campaign was built on its ashes. This is a great loss to all the whistleblowers and RTI activists, who are in desperate need of a law for their personal protection.
I for one would feel very angry if an unambitious-but-implementable Lokpal Bill was thwarted, not because my fellow activists wanted an alternative legislation, but because they really wanted to build a political party on the ashes of the Lokpal Bill.
(Krishnaraj Rao is a prominent Right-to-Information activist and journalist based in Mumbai. He can be reached at email@example.com )