Speaking Loudly with a Small Stick
Advancing with the times? Not really. Anna Hazare’s second coming is not encouraging even for the die-hard anti-corruption
campaigners as enthusiasm generated at the initial phase is simply lacking this time. Spontaneity has no future! The issue raised by Anna Hazare and his team is too complex and grievous to be fought through hunger-strike and that too in Delhi only. After all tax-evasion related corruption is a serious issue in USA, but not in India. Without a solid organisation and a sustained programme of action to reach a goal, anti-corruption movement as it is in the Anna crusade, can at best attract the attention of passive on-lookers, mostly middle-class people who are unlikely to go beyond candle-light march. Even Mao’s Communist Party in China failed to bombard its own headquarters despite a prolonged political and ideological battle against the people who were responsible for corrupting the party and the government administration as well by burying the very essence of communist ideology. Anna is no Mao. Nor does he command a party with dedicated and committed footsoldiers, who can embrace any kind of sacrifice for a cause.
Corruption in high places is not a recent phenomenon. Not that Nehruvian era was full of puritans and ardent followers of Gandhi. Black money was a burning question even in those days. But the scale of corruption and loot was not that gigantic as it is today. The rich have been evading taxes, rather hiding their real income, to generate black money for long, by blaming it on the central government, for pursuing a wrong, if not a counter-productive, tax structure. And now black money runs parallel economy with the tacit approval of the government as if people have no option but to live with it and its adverse consequences. All the successive governments have created a notion that it is next to impossible to eradicate corruption as it is deep-rooted in society, destroying all morality and ethical values. China, of late, has executed a number of top ranking officials on corruption charges, including charge of transferring money to foreign banks, without succeeding to arrest corruption in high places. India being the biggest showpiece of democracy, cannot imitate the Chinese model of combating corruption.
Without a mass upheaval involving the sub-alterns in large numbers, no revolutionary change is possible. One reason Arabs revolted in a number of countries forcing regime change was corruption in high places. But after ‘Spring’, most Arab nations that went through unprecedented social unrest and state repression as well, soon found themselves caught in a bind. They are now back to square one—romanticism is no answer to hard reality
Students despite their different class backgrounds are most sensitive to anything positive in every society as they show tenacity to fight even at the times of great stress and strain. But students across the country are remarkably absent in the Anna protest movement though they are the worst victims of the government policies over the years.
No political party is interested in Anna War. Nor do they see any real danger of facing disturbance in the status quo in Anna’s attempt to target a few individuals symbolising the faces of corruption. Then Anna Team itself is a divided house over the renewed interest shown by Ramdev in making the Anna movement against corruption a grand success because the Yogaguru is viewed by many as someone carrying a hidden saffron agenda.
As for the left not much can be expected from them. Political parties, left and right alike, will go bankrupt in Indian variety of parliamentary democracy, if they do not get funds from questionable sources. Rasing funds from the rich who benefit from government policies is an accepted practice in parliamentary culture throughout the world. This strong Lokpal as proposed by the Anna team is unlikely to deliver because this very system is generating corruption everyday and the number of people thriving on corruption at every level all the time, is very large. In effect Anna is proposing a party-less democracy which in the Indian context proved a utopia on more than one occasion, since the days of Binova Bhave and Jayprakash. But Anna now contradicts himself by showing specific interest in election, that cannot be anything but party-oriented and the Congress Party too is welcoming his decision to campaign, somewhat voluntarily for certain candidates who he thinks, are sincere and honest in the cesspool of corruption. The other day external affairs minister S M Krishna welcomed Anna Hazare’s plan to participate in the 2014 general elections. And against the backdrop of the indefinite fast by Anna Hazare coming to an end law minister Salman Khurshid assured his countrymen that the Lokpal would be ready before the 2014 General Elections. True, Hazare attacked both Congress and BJP and talked about the need for a political alternative in the 2014 elections. In other words he was no longer advocating a partyless democracy. He will find honest people contesting polls in almost all parties. But they are unlikely to form a third alternative saying goodbye to their party’s political and ideological line. If Hazare is trapped by elections, the parties in power and their critics in opposition will succeed in defeating the very propose of the movement Anna Hazare and his co-activists stand for.
Then mass mobilisation is not an end in itself. Wall Street occupiers were mostly American youth who raised mass consciousness against the unjust system of 99 percent vs 1 percent and inspired the oppressed people across the globe to take to the streets. But after the initial euphoria they now look rudderless to translate mass awareness into a revolutionary tide. No doubt, Anna’s resolve to fight out corruption in high places has activated a section of middle class people but even this limited mass awareness against the systemic danger of producing inequality and widening the gap between the rich and the poor astronomically, cannot be converted into a material force to reckon with unless there lies a platform for organising the most unorganised and ensuring their participation in the ensuing democratic reforms.
At the time of writing Team Anna disbanded itself and decided not to have any more talks with the government. People are waiting to see how Hazare’s alternative gets materialised.
Vol. 45, No. 5, Aug 12-18, 2012