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Mainstream, VOL L, No 39, September 15, 2012

Frustration of the Social Space

Monday 17 September 2012


by Tarun Patnaik

The dissolution of the Anna team and the death of a popular social movement in desperate condition filled with frustration, diminishing popular enthusiasm raise questions and doubts on whether, if ever, a social movement can succeed in India! The liberal and strongly defensive nature of our political leaders neither angers the public to forge a social movement nor provides them respite with acceptance of their demands.

What are the reasons for which the members of the Anna team decided to convert their social movement into a political movement? Would this bring about the death of the social space? Is there no hope left for people who do not want to go for elections and power politics but wish to attain a social objective that needs some support from the elected political leaders? While the Anna team is exploring the political option, Baba Ramdev is in the process of a political dialogue with the BJP, which makes us suspect the possibility of him too joining the game of power politics perhaps with the help of the BJP! Or will he launch his own party? The dichotomy of the political movement and social movement blurs in distinction when the objective of the social movement is to enact any legislation. In this particular case, the Anna team struggled for two years with the party in power to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, but in vain. Anna Hazare was made to wait and wait till his support base got tired and frustrated. The political class considers it their sole proprietary privilege to have authority over matters concerned with legislations and laws of the country. No doubt we have elected the MPs and MLAs to make laws on our behalf. But does it mean that we have delegated so much that there is no power left with us to make legislative demands? Have we rendered ourselves incompetent, and relinquished all our powers for initiative to make a new or change any legislation or law governing our lives?

After all, it is we, the people, for whom laws and legislations are made; how then can we be barred from intervening in matters of how these laws are legislated? Have we no prerogative to lend our voice to convey what the legislations governing our lives should be?

There has come up a tall and strong wall between the electors and the elected that has made all types of communication between the public and their elected leaders illegitimate. The elected leaders are in no mood to listen to the voice of the public however popular it may be if it comes in their way of unchallengeable exercise of power and authority.

Now suppose we brand the effect on a legislation as a political objective, we can say with some amount of proven authority that social movements are not allowed to have political objectives. This proof comes from the frustration and failure of the Anna team. The other activist in the form of Baba Ramdev may soon join course.

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