Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anna Hazare's googly

Am I the only one to be taken by surprise by the turn of events in L'affaire Anna Hazare? Yesterday, when I heard on TV that Hazare had been subjected to preventive detention, I cannot say I was outraged.

There is merit in the contention that the police, having availed of Sec 144, were within their rights to judge whether Hazare's proposed actions would disturb the peace or not. But I did feel that the politically astute course for the government would have been to allow Hazare and his fans in the visual media to spend themselves over a day or two.

That was not to be. The government sent Hazare to Tihar Jail only to reverse its decision and order his release by the end of the day. I am not in a position to judge how great was the groundswell of sentiment in favour of Hazare in Delhi and elsewhere. But the TV channels (one of which openly espouses his cause) certainly made one feel it was significant. They and sundry personalities kept clobbering the government through the day, perhaps giving the Congress bigwigs the sense that they were losing the PR battle.

What followed was even more astonishing. Hazare refused to accept the release order and leave the jail until assured that he could carry on his protest at a venue of his choosing. This was indeed a googly and the government was completely stumped. It could not, I suppose, have asked the cops to evict Hazare. The option of escorting Hazare out of Delhi must have been weighed and rejected. It appears now that Hazare will have his way.

It is certainly a blow to the government but that is not the point. We need to consider what the episode forebodes for the functioning of our democracy. What happens to the prerogative of parliament to make laws? Does this get suspended when parliament is seen to be not heeding the wishes of a large number of people? Who decides this in a given case and who is to be presumed to speak for the people? And if some of the clauses of the Janata Lokpal Bill are to be included in the government's draft, what purpose will be served by parliament debating them? Parliament can reject them only at the risk of facing another fast and trial by media!

This is not a referendum. It is not even mobocracy. It is mediacracy. Once the TV channels decide to root for a cause, an individual with a reasonable following may be able to foist his wishes on the elected government and parliament. Why have elections, let's settle for TV debates and online polls.


Sriram said...

Parliament has for too long protected its own. The status quo is attempted to being changed. The people sense that this is the right thing to do, but their elected representatives are not listening to them, and the reasons for that are clear.

There was a clear breach of trust when the government tabled a watered-down bill in Parliament after making a show of consultation with civic society. The media are not making up the angst that people feel over this. It is pedantic to carp over principles and rules when they are being used in bad faith by the entrenched political class.

K.R.Srivarahan said...

I agree with Mr.Sriram. The whole development has to be viewed in its totality. The government refused to incorporate any of the salient features enunciated by 50% members of the committee and forwarded its own bill to the parliament.(If the government does not have an open mind, why was the committee formed in the first place? Government's malicious Machiavellian intent became all too clear.) When Anna questioned this partisan approach of the government, he was accused of disrespecting the parliament. It was the government which misused the process and insulted the parliament. When this trick did not pay off, the arrogant ministers started maligning Anna and his team.The prime minister continued to maintain his stoic and sinister silence. If this background in kept in mind, one will not blame Anna.

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Ankur Kulkarni said...

I am unsure as to whether our democracy is perfected enough to grant it the sanctity and supremacy that you are suggesting. As I see it, there are obvious structural loopholes in the current democracy as a result of which elected representatives can take self-serving actions that legitimised by the principle of 'the supremacy of parliament'. The only disincentive against actions like these is that in the "repeated game" of successive elections, people may vote out the self-serving ones. But this guarantees elected representatives of the non-self-serving kind only in the long run and only when we have "ideal people" with infinite memory and complete clarity of thinking.

With some degree of abstraction, I see the Anna Hazare movement as a response to the fact that our 'theoretical' democracy is not working in the real world.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised how the elite have gone by the book and failed to see the crisis in the country. I guess this is how the 2008 crisis was born. When experts repeatedly fail to see the warning signs.

If Anna has the people's support what is undemocratic about it? How can a peaceful protest be anything but democratic? Does a democracy mean that the people cannot oppose or demand the government on anything?

Why do you consider this blackmail by a few people? The only reason why Anna has legitimacy is because of people's support.

The elite are quick to pick on Anna that it would create another bureaucracy, undermine the govt, etc, but they are silent when numerous bureaucracies are created every year and when the govt itself undermines democracy everyday. Surely you don't equate the govt with democracy? What hypocrisy or stupidity?

Anonymous said...

Oh and if anybody outside the elected representatives are not supposed to draft laws, then lets disband the financial commission and all the other bureaucracies that create draft laws.

Anonymous said...

Manmohan Singh never won an election. Where were you when he was made PM?

Anonymous said...

Dear Professor,

This time I emphatically negate your opinion. And so does all other comments that you've hitherto received on this blog.

To be very specific, here are the answers to your questions:

What happens to the prerogative of parliament to make laws? Does this get suspended when parliament is seen to be not heeding the wishes of a large number of people? - Yes. The prerogative of parliament to make laws gets suspended. A parliament which does not represent people, is no parliament and in such cases, it oughts to get suspended.

Who decides this in a given case and who is to be presumed to speak for the people? - The people would decide in such case and leader like Gandhi, Anna and others would baton them to be rhetoric on their behalf. Civilizations across the world has produced such leaders time and again; so don't worry of who will take the march ahead.

And if some of the clauses of the Janata Lokpal Bill are to be included in the government's draft, what purpose will be served by parliament debating them? Parliament can reject them only at the risk of facing another fast and trial by media! - People are OK if JLP gets rejected by Parliament, provided there is reasoning & rationale (that is also palatable) being provided for rejecting it; by rejecting it in Parliament, atleast the reasons for rejecting becomes formal. And if it gets rejected without any rationale/reason, then YES, we're ready for another fast and media trial.


We, the People of India, are OK with any system (be it Democracy, Dictatorship, Marxism, Mobocracy or Mediacracy), as long as the said system is in long term benefit of majority of populace. And we don't see the current democracy serving this purpose.


Btw, I start doubting your instincts. I am sure you would have opined in the same manner (anti-Gandhi & pro-Britishers), during the British times, had you got opportunity to take birth during those times.

And thanks for deleting this comment (which I am sure you would surely do, as you don't follow democracy by heart) after reading it.

Amit said...

Nice point! But there does seem some merit in Anna Hazare's contention that it is not in the interests of the elected representatives to appoint an authority that would do trials of corruption cases (in this case themselves, as many of the politicians have cases of corruption brought against them).
The ante to this is - what would prevent the lokpal office to itself become corrupt.

On the case of mediacracy, sure the media has been effectively managed by Anna camp. But it is a force against government paintbrush. Initially govt estimates of anna supporters were few thousand, then ten thousand and then a lakh. "we can't listen to every person who starts a rally of few thousand" was the initial govt. line. What was being forgotten was that everybody has faced the brunt of corrupt officials one time or the other. And contrary to many politicians' promises, little has been achieved to root it out. Something needs to be done to change the status-quo of corruption.

Summarizing -

>Is this really 'public opinion'? Looks like that. 1 lakh+ people gathering for a cause cannot be frivolous. If only the media was rooting, this much support would not have been possible.
>Should media be managed like this to let public opinion be heard? Why not? Definitely
>Should lokpal have such strong powers and coverage? Debatable, could be provided if there are checks in place to prevent corruption creeping within itself

Rahul said...

One old man (hero) is fighting we r all just giving comments come on young India let all join anna come on

Sandip Dev said...

Good arguments. And I largely agree with you. It isn't entirely true that the parliament will not pass any law that affects the parliamentarians adversely - the RTI bill did get passed. You cannot give an ultimatum to a government to pass a bill. I would like to see more discussion on it from all sides (what an MBA would call a 360 degree analysis ;-) ).The Lokpal that Team Anna has suggested confers way too much power in the hands of one person; and we must remember that as honest Anna or Kejriwal may be they are mere mortals will not live forever. What ensures that the Lokpal itself will not get corrupt in the future? What ensures that the inspectors appointed by the Lokpal won't be corrupt? And what ensures that the Lokpal will have any significant impact on corruption? At the end, the job of the Lokpal will be done by inspectors who cannot be expected to be incorruptible. The Lokpal is not the silver bullet it is meant out to be.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sandip Dev,

I agree (and this has been also agreed by civil society) that JLP is not the panacea for corruption, but it can be significant catalyst to tackle corruption and reduce it to some extent; it can be atleast the first step.

And we cannot shelter under argument that what if tomorrow Lokpal or its member become corrupt; it's a cynical way of thinking and if we don't change such thinking, we won't be able to take even a single step towards eradication of corruption; perhaps it is precisely because of this reason there are no many steps in last 60 years (excepting RTI).

But your point is worth considering - what is Lokayukta is corrupt? I would say and also believe that there should be some provisions in the JLP itself by which the Lokayukta or its members by itself are subjected to JLP provisions if found guilty.

And at the outset, just one last point - no change comes suddenly; and if does come, it won't sustain long; it has to be gradual; so let's have a strong & comprehensive JLP now, which can be then tailored/amended based on the pragmatic difficulties or impasse being confronted over a period of time.

Parliamentary procedures are to be respected. But so has to be citizens emotions & voices. And in case of conflict between the two, let the latter prevail; let the PRINCIPLES prevail over RULES; that's what Krishna did...he broke all the conventional rules/procedures to upheld the Principles/Dharma.

Plea you all to have open mind; to embrace change; to look holistically; to go beyond the procedures; procedures can be changed; they are made by us only; but the principles are universal & omnipresent. Please understand and think like a layman; Don't apply your hard core intelligence; you might be wise but that wisdom is futile if you cannot connect with larger mass of people & their emotions; it's waste to be wise if you cannot bring larger good for larger mass.

Tell me what change did you, with all your qualifications, were able to bring which Mr Anna, who just has attribute of Compassion is able to bring. You need Compassion, not wisdom, to be a true LEADER.

Rahul said...

always voted for cond party , i was great fan of rahul ,sonia and sheela dikshit,but after anna hazare i never voted for congress all congress party are curropt,pm toh bus naam ka hai power toh ghandhi's ki hai ,today's middle and poor people r suffering due to corruption all neta r geeting richer's day by day ,they all has made us idots for long time .bt now we have to fight for our rights and fight against corruption ,give more support to anna

Plastic Household Items said...

Interesting post!!!

Rahul said...

this is one of the biggest phenomena in the recent human history.. the single window glass was not broken in such a massive protest of 1 billion population and people got their wishes.

Anna is definitely a phenomena and an amazing success. people doubted including me but he proved everyone wrong. i was so fed up of these politician and pseudo intellactuals that i thought our country had no future.

thanks for making many wrong by winning. yes, things may not change over night but if good people keep quiet then anarchy will continue because bad people always do bad things but good people always be practical.

what is the most beautiful this is he made politicians look so stupid and also all pseudo and jealous filled pseudo intellectuals like Arundati Roy and Mahesh Bhat.

after 65 years, there is a joy again in me and also proud to be an Indian again.

hurricane Irene is blasting the roof off but in my cozy apartment, i am reading about ym Anna. said...

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Rahul said...

well we are still under teh british rule . just that the colour of skin is bronw instead of white. Targetting team anna members is exactly what I had expected would happen. Our politicians are the worst breed of animals and when good people pick up a fight agains them , this is what happens. The other day on a news channel I heard salman khurshid joking shjamelessy that ' Hum business class hka paisa economy mein travel karke nahin bachhate. yes ofcourse, why would you guys save. Desh ka paisa to sab aap logo ka hi hai. wealth of India is the property of the ancesstors of all our ploiticians . The kind of money that is spent on our polotiticna is equivalent to buying helicpoters . They dont desrve travel by bus and are targetting Kiran bedi who saved money for her foundation by puttign herself to inconvenience. How mny poilticians to this ? If you are really in politics only to serve the country, why do you guys spend crores on travel by air, why do you wnat luxurions houses in South Mumbai , or the elite regions of Delhi, why do you guys spend crores of rupees on renovation of houses of MLA's ministers? for filling up potholes, the quality of material that is used isn not even worth a few hundred rupess and then they shamelessly say - we dont save money like what Kiran bedi did. We indians should now get united and should not lose focus agains these corrupt brown british rulers.

Rahul said...

What stunt? ask those people those who do not get justice, see how they suffer because of this corruption in India. everyone is feared to ask for justice and goondas rule those places where people can't even witness the truth. There are several people now joined Anna and it takes it's own time to strengthen it's power step by step. Everyone needs instant results without cooking. Give time, support Anna and wait for good results to comeout.

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