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Mainstream, VOL L, No 33, August 4, 2012

Country at Crossroads: Whither India, Whither Bharat?

Thursday 9 August 2012, by S G Vombatkere

The core group led by Anna Hazare (called Team Anna) is looking to the 2014 general elections to support any political entity that is non-Congress, non-BJP and non-regional, that will support Team Anna’s dogmas of removing corruption, removing the corrupt from power, and enacting the Jan Lokpal Bill. Any right-minded citizen would have nothing but praise for the first two. But there is a school of thought that opines that the Jan Lokpal Bill arrogates too much unaccountable and wide-ranging power to persons who are not elected by the people. Such a Jan Lokpal could even trump the government or Parliament (executive and legislature) itself, making it unconstitutional, even anti-constitutional. Of course, the fact that even if all the tainted Ministers are removed, systemic corruption will merely receive a temporary setback, does not appear to have been addressed.

In 2011, Team Anna’s snowballing movement saw unprecedented huge numbers give support at Ramlila Ground and across the country in cities and towns. The Union (UPA) Government shook a bit but rallied round, played politics, and when all else failed, tried to discredit Anna Hazare and his team-mates. The people remained firmly with Team Anna. The NDA Opposition supported Team Anna in 2011, but did not follow it up within Parliament. Anna Hazare began to speak out against the UPA in particular, but the Lok Sabha viewed Team Anna’s agitation as a slight on its authority, even though it formed a Parliamentary Standing Committee to examine the issues involved.

Now Team Anna appears sure that the UPA Government is unlikely to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill, and the second dogma of removing corrupt Ministers will not happen. Lok Sabha Members across all major political parties have declared that Anna Hazare’s statements are objectionable (for diverse reasons), and that he is insulting the Lok Sabha itself. Anna Hazare has said that for the 2014 general elections, he will support any person or any political entity that will fight against corruption. He has accused the UPA Government of attempting to drive a wedge between himself and his team members, and undertaken an indefinite fast in support of the dogma despite age and health

There are large numbers of ongoing people’s movements across India that are fighting for their fundamental rights, human rights, land rights, economic rights, civic rights and so on. These movements are fighting for their rights, which are denied to them essentially because of endemic corruption (and intransparency and unaccountability that are part and parcel of corruption) at various levels of governance. The people of these movements are not seen to support Team Anna, nor has Team Anna mentioned any of these movements.

There is a disconnect between these people’s movements that challenge the establishment, and Team Anna’s undeniably influential movement. Even though everybody is affected by corruption, people in rural and small-town areas, who form on-the-ground people’s move-ments, are affected differently from the predominantly urban, literate people who rally to Team Anna’s call. In the on-the-ground people’s movements held in rural areas and small towns, women and children are seen in large numbers, but much less so in Team Anna’s demonstrations, which rely on numbers in urban, especially metro, areas. Finally, some of these on-the-ground people’s movements have been going on for over two decades (to name just a few, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Bhopal Gas Peedith Andolan, Kudankulam anti-nuclear movement, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti), but get little or no support from any political party. It is surprising that these movements have not been detected on Team Anna’s radar.

The BJP-led NDA is the ‘Right’ and the Congress-led UPA is the ‘Centre’ in the political spectrum even though their economic agenda are identical. When speaking of “non-Congress, non-BJP and non-regional”, are Anna Hazare and his close supporters speaking of the political ‘Left’, consisting of democratic socialist, communist and progressive forces? (This of course, excludes ‘Maoist’ or ‘Naxalite’ factions, which deny the authority of the state and have no use for the Constitution of India). [Note 1] One is reminded of Prof Rosenberg, speaking on nonlinear oscillations, saying: “Everyone knows what is a banana—a non-banana can be anything.”!

Thus, if Team Anna is to gather enough support on the basis of its dogmas to form a political front that can electorally threaten both the Congress and BJP in 2014, and the ‘Left’ is not in the equation, it could mean that their perception is that the ‘Left’ is politically irrelevant or not recognised. But it is possible that in the 2014 general elections (which could happen earlier as some predict) neither the Congress nor the BJP is able to cobble together a coalition to get a majority in the Lok Sabha. If that should happen, there will be a hung Parliament and power will pass into the hands of the President of India. This may have ominous overtones of internal emergency unless the President remains scrupulously apolitical. Even so, one person running a country like India directly through a bureaucracy (that is not free from the corruption that Team Anna is valiantly fighting) cannot but turn the country into a Police State.

The ordinary citizen’s and the country’s economic short-term future is very bleak, aggravated by a failed monsoon. With continued lack of communication between India’s democratic Left and the struggling on-the-ground people’s movements, the political future may also be bleak because the current disastrous, corporate-inspired economic policies will be applied with increased vigour using police and military force against people’s movements.

Note

1. The term ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, in the political context, originated in France, with ‘Left’ meaning ‘the party of movement’ and ‘Right’ meaning ‘the party of order’ or the party of status quo. There is general consensus that the Left includes progressives, social liberals, greens, social democrats, socialists, communists and anarchists, and that the Right includes conservatives, reactionaries, capitalists, monarchists, nationalists and fascists. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left%E2%80% 93right_politics > Leftists are people with views which generally support social change to create a more egalitarian society, with concern for the disadvantaged people on the assumption that unjustified inequalities that exist (which Rightists view as traditional or natural) should be abolished. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-wing_politics

S.G. Vombatkere served 35 years in the Indian Army in the rank of Major General from the post of Additional DG in charge of Discipline and Vigilance in Army HQ, New Delhi He is presently engaged in voluntary work and is a member of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

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