28 August, 2011


My Jottings on the Second Fast at Ramlila Maidan


The Government handling of the Anna campaign – specially of the Aug 16 fast – appears so inept and politically so bankrupt that they almost appear wrong. This underlines the critical importance of political acumen and finesse in such situations.

The Congress that gifted to India such masterpiece legislations like the RTI Act and the RTE Act that challenge corruption far more effectively, today appears in the public perception as almost siding with corruption.

It is ironic that youngsters that have little idea of the nuances of law making, and are largely unaware even of the provisions of the proposed legislation, have been successfully mobilized to take to roads. The UPA, on the other hand, has not even attempted to educate the citizens on its initiatives, nor on the unwelcome implications of the Anna draft of the bill. Neither could it divert the attention of the youth to some other equally potent agenda, nor could it counter the Anna campaign. It could not so much as galvanize the huge alternate civil society that does not agree with Anna.
What may now follow?

1. The UPA surrenders and bows to Team Anna, accepts his version and placates him. This will erode the Govt authority and undermine the moral position of the Congress.
2. The Govt toughens its position, leading to further arraignment and consolidation of youth power against it. Unless the Govt is able to hold on to this position long enough for the youth to tire, this may backfire.
3. The Govt plays cat and mouse and educates the citizens, while the Congress mobilizes crowds to demonstrate its own muscle, proves existence of unholy nexus in this campaign, and attempts to politically neutralize Team Anna. Unless handled with great astuteness this has the potential of damaging the Congress legacy significantly.
All in all the government and the Congress party have unwittingly landed themselves in an unfortunate situation where no matter what they do, they cannot win. All they can hope to do is not lose more ground. Sad phase for an indisputably less corrupt political party, thanks to its coalition politics.
In the meantime the campaign is subtly and certainly taking political overtones – and perhaps some subtle shades of communalism.

17 August, 2011

IMBROGLIO: Anna must be allowed to fast – indefinitely and without limit on crowds – to press his demands. Govt imposes restrictions on the number of days for fasting and the size of the crowds.
WHY THESE RESTRICTIONS? If the crowds are not regulated the Delhites will be discomforted. Anna may perish to hunger if the Govt doesn’t accept his demands and he continues to fast. This will inevitably result in mass violence. So why doesn’t the Govt accept his demands?
DEMANDS: So what are the demands now that the Govt has actually drafted a bill and presented to standing committee? Accept ‘our’ bill or make the Govt bill as ‘strong’ as ours.
CRUX OF DISPUTE: What is the principal divergence? PM, higher judiciary and lower bureaucracy not included in the Govt bill.
ANNA’S ARGUMENTS: Corruption will not disappear unless this is done. The Govt bill is toothless and will only partially tackle corruption.
GOVT ARGUMENTS: The Anna Bill is not practical, will create a behemoth in the Lokpal and will impede the fearless functioning of the higher judiciary and the PM.
ARBITRATION: Whenever a dispute arises between two parties some third party arbitrates. Who could this arbitrator be?
ONE: This could be settled by crowds on the roads with both parties mobilizing their respective mobs for and against Anna bill. But it appears that it is difficult to debate and discuss on the roads with people not fully aware of the provisions of the two draft bills. This will also substitute democracy with mobocracy.
TWO: Anna could present his draft to like-minded MPs, specially of the opposition, who could pilot the necessary amendments in the Parliament to make the bill as strong as he wishes. Here the MPs can discuss and pass the bill into a law. This also happens to be the normal procedure for law making in a democracy.
ANNA OBJECTION: So why doesn’t TEAM ANNA agree to this democratic arbitration? “All the MPs are corrupt and don’t want a strong Lokpal”. Either this is true or is an exaggeration. If true, then TEAM ANNA must actually launch a movement for abolition of the parliamentary system, call for radical political, or at least electoral reforms, and overhaul our body politic.
So what is the REAL nature of the issue involved? Think. I am thinking, too. In the meantime how about circulating this for wider discussion?
Let everybody participating in the ANNA campaign make the following declaration and pledge. Let no one not taking this oath participate in the rally:
  1. I HEREBY CONFIRM that I have never TAKEN corruption.
  2. I HEREBY PLEDGE that I shall never GIVE bribes and shall fight it whenever and wherever it is demanded.
The joke of the year. It is the doctors – most of them, I mean – who are looting the sick and the emotionally disturbed in the worst form of corruption. However, if you are a private doctor, you don’t have to worry Anna’s Lokpal bill, but if you are government doctor, you must.
DOCTORS AGAINST CORRUPTION? What? Isn’t it they who indulge in the worst form of corruption exploiting the sick and the emotionally disturbed.
Yedyurappa the most infamous of the chief ministers, for corruption, was continued in the office until the Lok Ayukta recommended his prosecution. His proxy is the new CM of Karnataka.
The BJP can happily present the Anna bill provisions as its own amendment proposals and resolve the issue through voting. Why doesn’t it announce this and spare the people the all this bother?
The BJP has in fact not clarified its position even once. Why doesn’t it at least announce that it is in favour of the entire draft of Anna Hazare?
The inevitable conclusion is that it is using Anna Hazare campaign as proxy opposition to bring down the Congress govt.
==================== Thursday, 18 August, 2011 ===================
Nearly 2000 innocent Indians sitting in their homes and factories or walking their roads lawfully, were brutally killed; about 70 virtuous women were gang raped; several thousand productive persons were maimed; several hundred thousand were temporarily thrown out of their towns and villages….
No such mass agitation then as we see in India Against Corruption rallies. No such magnificent and spontaneous outpouring of public solidarity. No Anna Hazare for them. No Anupam or Kiran Kher for them? Why? Was this crime any less heinous than corruption?
I live in Gujarat. I ask those that are contributing their valuable time and talent for this inarguably worthy battle against corruption, why they [exceptions apart] did nothing for the sufferers of Gujarat genocide. Why they do not regard communalism as at least as serious a crime? Why did their conscience, nationalism, humanism take a back seat then? How come the very architect of this genocide has become a potential beneficiary of this campaign?
I am less than enthusiastic about this IAC campaign because its votaries have shown less than fair concern for my very existence. The 2000 that perished cannot fight with Anna either. They would be willing to bribe for being allowed to live.
Narendra Modi’s supporters claim him to be non-corrupt. Anna’s ire is, therefore, not directed at him. His henchmen can happily go kill innocents in fake encounters. I just happen to pay attention to this campaign no less.
==================== Thursday, 18 August, 2011 ===================
  1. The huge illegal and unaccounted monies that religious gurus receive and disburse
  2. The brutally exploitative practices practiced by medical practitioners
  3. The NGOs that receive, disburse and enjoy excessive funding
  4. The degree selling shops called Medical, Management and Engineering colleges thriving on capitation fees
  5. The Harshad Mehtas, Ketan Parikhs, Karim Telgis or Ambanis and Adanis, of our times
  6. Perhaps not even the political party funding and electoral spending that vitiate the entire body politic
=========================== Friday, 19 August, 2011 =======================
    1. Massive, spontaneous, unprecedented in scale and a welcome awakening. Clearly a threat to any government that dare take citizenry for granted.
    2. There have been a lot of stories of bribe lately thanks to RTI etc. in recent public memory
    3. The people generally are fed up with corruption and want it cleansed
    4. Awaiting a national agenda for a long time ever since the Ram Mandir movement
    5. It satisfies a deep resentment against the ‘big bad state’ that most of us feel, specially when poised against a ‘frail, 76 yr old Gandhian speaking for us’.
    6. Inefficient handling by the UPA [arresting Anna rather prematurely, putting him inside the infamous Tihar Jail, pathetic media management and PR and a bit of arrogance following the successful shunting of Ramdev]
    1. Highly biased in Anna’s favour. Only NDTV is balancing the coverage a bit.
    2. The numbers are clearly exaggerated by the TRP hungry metro electronic media.
    3. For the Times Now nothing else is happening on earth. It has on several occasions exaggerated attendance and presented very biased reporting. It sized the 10k+ crowd outside Tihar jail as ‘hundreds of thousands’.
    4. Most channels actually seem to act as Anna mouthpieces actually advertising Team Anna’s schedule and pronouncements.
    1. Undoubtedly a well-intended, clean man, simple, humble, austere, ascetic, unsullied -by-urban-political-mud
    2. Rather too simple, a bit naïve, arguably not well read / adequately informed on the nuances of governance and statecraft, not incapable of being carried away and shifting stands
    3. I doubt if Anna would be able to engage with a seasoned lawyer in a televised debate. He may perhaps fumble even on some provisions of the so-called Anna draft of the bill. In the circumstances insisting that his version alone be passed seems a bit less than honest, and undoubtedly arrogant.
    1. Very capable, articulate, imaginative, clean, honest, media savvy, adept at social media and well-coordinated. Working as a team intact despite provocations and temptations.
    2. Using Anna astutely [remember their campaign was not gaining the momentum until they enrolled and show-cased Anna]
================== 21 August, 2011 ===============
Team Anna's arguments why their version of Lokpal bill must be accepted:
A. Huge crowds of people on the roadside are supporting it.
B. Conduct a referendum and go by the result.

By this logic Mr L K Advani can demand - and get approval for - demolition of mosques or churches. The VHP may too perhaps get Muslims exterminated. Sachin may get Bharat Ratna. Salman Khan may be declared the best actor of all times.
================== Wednesday, 24 August, 2011 ================
Mr Advani is very passionate about the Ram Temple – at least as serious and committed as Shri Anna Hazare is about eradicating corruption. Each of them is capable of mobilizing equal crowds. Each espouses causes that arouse people’s strong passion.
So Mr Advani will be fully justified in similarly taking matters into his own hands and asking the Govt of India to either build the Ram Temple or go!
TEAM ANNA has asked its supporters not to piquet the MPs and other functionaries. What is the morality of this injunction? If the TEAM can resort to unlawful means [resisting police administering medicine or breaking fast, denying permission etc] in its own way, why can’t its supporters do all they can, in their own way, in the very same cause?
Wed, 24 August, 2011
TEAM ANNA has asked its supporters not to piquet the MPs and block passage. What is the morality of this injunction? If the TEAM can resort to unlawful means [resisting police administering medicine or breaking fast, denying permission etc] in its own way, why can’t its supporters do all they can, in their own way, in the very same cause?
Pl get your supporters to publicly pledge that they HAVE NEVER TAKEN BRIBE. Let this declaration come forth at every rally, the first thing.
It is wrong to surmise that it is impossible to live in India without bribing. It is a hell of lot of difficult, though, but it is possible. And there are people who have chosen to suffer but did not give in to easy ways.
Pl get your supporters at every rally, on every occasion, to take the pledge that they will not GIVE a bribe come what may. Why wait for the law? Let there be a beginning by the people.
Thursday, 25 August, 2011
It is cruel of his comrades to allow the 74-yr old Gandhian to remain hungry this long. The indomitable Anna Hazare must be persuaded by all – his supporters, as well as the government – to break his fast NOW. The nation requires his gritty spirits for many a campaign, from electoral to social reforms.
Mr Advani is very passionate about the Ram Temple – at least as serious and committed as Shri Anna Hazare is about eradicating corruption. Each of them is capable of mobilizing equal crowds. Each espouses causes that arouse people’s strong passion.
So Mr Advani will be fully justified in similarly taking matters into his own hands and asking the Govt of India to either build the Ram Temple or go!
================ 27 August, 2011 ====================
I pen these notes as we are told that Anna will break his fast at 10:00 AM tomorrow since the “sense of the House” has been conveyed to him resolving due consideration to the three points put forth by Team Anna yesterday.
First, I congratulate all concerned on bringing about a resolution to the sticky situation and for facilitating Anna’s breaking of the fast. I should reiterate my respect for the indomitable spirit of the old Gandhian. I envy his dogmatism, stamina and courage.
I must also congratulate the Team Anna for their excellent media management, PR and for the most part their splendid team work. They all strived to serve the country in their wisdom and to the best of their abilities.
BUT NOW, may I ask what exactly did the Team Anna achieve by this 12-day fast? What was it that they now achieved that was not achievable otherwise WITHOUT this second fast? Did the Government not give them enough indication of give and take, a full twelve days ago?
It is a sad spectacle to watch the Team Anna and their supporters today. Watch their body language and hear the tone of their chief media champion, Arnab Goswamy: they are taking pains to claim “total victory” in the face of a clear and decisive defeat.
In the process they frittered away the enormous goodwill and commitment they had managed to mobilize in the people of India, specially its youth, so successfully, in April 2011. This was again available to them for almost a week during the current agitation when the Govt reached out to them, after recovering from the bungling of shutting Anna in Tihar Jail.
It is only in the face of Team Anna’s misplaced – almost egoistic – insistence on their original three conditions [YES, they have been changing their demands]
a. the Government Lokpal Bill introduced in Parliament should be withdrawn
b. the Jan Lokpal Bill should be introduced in Parliament within four days
c. it should be passed during the current session of Parliament
They said, too, that Anna would not break his fast until then, or until a written assurance was given by the PM to that effect.
Has any of these happened? NO!!
So why is Anna breaking his ‘indefinite’ fast?
For the same reason that the Govt bowed before them last fortnight: the CROWDS. Only, the Govt tried to placate them due to surging crowds then; the Team Anna mellowed down and settled for a face-saver due to the thinning crowds now. MOBOCRACY is not much different from this.
When Anna observed his fast in April 2011, I was with him, too. Indeed, I wrote to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, [and I am not boasting she read it!], urging her to get the Govt to engage with him seriously in drafting the bill, and for her to drive down personally to Jantar Mantar and get Anna to break his fast by offering a glass of juice.
But I felt that his second round of fasting was completely misplaced. Indeed, three days ago, when the impasse appeared insurmountable, I petitioned the Supreme Court praying for halting Anna’s fast.
While I am sad at the suffering undergone by Anna and his Team needlessly I hold none but them responsible for this. And also for the huge loss caused to the nation by paralyzing the Government of India, significantly obstructing developmental work, restricting the movement of men, machines and material. The loss caused to the nation and to the people by this needless agitation far outstripped the one that might have been caused by corruption for another three months.
To me the real heroes that brought about this resolution appear to be Shri Swami Agnivesh and Mr Justice Santosh Hegde, both members of the Team Anna. They both endorsed the Govt stand and urged Anna to break his fast, holding the other Team members responsible for needlessly prolonging this imbroglio.
The closing scene of the painful drama tonight presented Anna standing shoulder to shoulder with PM’s emissary Vilasrao Deshmukh, singing the National Anthem to declare the closure. Wasn’t it this Mr Deshmukh derided by the Opposition as the most corrupt Chief Minister not long ago?
During this needless phase of the evolution of the Lokpal Bill some opportunists were clearly visible. Who?
  1. A section of electronic media, led by the Times Now that unabashedly carried a self-confessed ‘non-stop coverage’ based on innuendo, selective reporting, [indeed, less of reporting and more of provoking], in the dubious preacher-like style of its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswamy. Their TRP ratings may have shot up but they certainly lost the admiration of the discerning fact seekers of the country. [Even today when the Govt did not so much as concede a Voting resolution, its banner headlines are “Anna’s Complete Victory – Celebrations break out across the nation”]. For our metro-centric electronic media the world had come to a standstill; in their august opinion the audience deserved no other news.
  2. The BJP that remained ambivalent and ambiguous on Jan Lokpal Bill but never missed an opportunity to bash the UPA. Remember the laughable posturing of the unworthy Varun Gandhi? [Mercifully Team Anna didn’t take him up the dais or they would have lost even more respect.]
  3. The 2-minute TV attention grabbing people that did every possible trick for the camera, from shaving their heads off to tattooing, to shouting slogans..[thereby undermining the wonderful solidarity showed by the unarguably sensible and dedicated youth in the early phase.]
So what happened in the Parliament today that provided the venerable Gandhian with a face saver? [Quoted from http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=113628]
The day-long long extraordinary debate on the Lokpal issue Saturday ended with the Lok Sabha adopting "a sense of house" that included an in-principle acceptance of three key demands of Anna Hazare. There was, however, neither any resolution nor a voice vote that was expected at the end of the debate.
Replying to the over eight-hour debate on the Lokpal issue in a special sitting of parliament, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed "a broad sense of the house" expressing an in-principle acceptance of three key demands [sic] that brought the government and civil society activists on a collision course.
These included an agreement on the citizens' charter, the bringing of the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal and the setting up of Lokayuktas in the state.
Amid the thumping of desks from MPs, Mukherjee made it clear that the outcome of the proceedings will be submitted to the parliamentary standing committee examining the Lokpal bill. The standing committee will bring a revised legislation to the House, he said.
"It will be subjected to the parliamentary standing committee and then it will be brought to the house," he said, adding that it will be parliament which will eventually decide on the final legislation.
Note that
  1. The Govt did not give in to a single one of Team Anna’s original three demands.
  2. The Govt did not agree to a voting resolution
  3. The Parliament simply adopted a “Sense of the House” motion.
  4. The entire proceedings will still have to be submitted to the Standing Committee for its consideration.
  5. The Jan Lokpal Bill is not there on the table
  6. Rahul Gandhi delivered a no-non-sense speech in the Parliament yesterday
Can the nation ask them why they held it to ransom?
Ultimately the Parliamentary processes held supreme and Constitutionalism alone emerged the victor.
Was this not what we, the ‘other civil society’ were saying all along?

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