Anna and his team have called off their fast and have indicated that they would like to enter politics. Both items have been hotly discussed in the media.
Why did they call off the fast? Because it was evident that support for the anti-corruption movement was negligible. Many reasons have been given as to why support has dwindled since last year: corruption fatigue, the unreasonableness of Team Anna's positions, the fact that parliament is now processing the Lokpal Bill etc. The one I find most plausible was given by a friend who happens to be a businessman.
My friend says that the numbers last year were swollen overwhelmingly on account of support from the RSS- and the RSS would have its reasons for throwing its weight behind an anti-Congress movement. Members of Team Anna thereafter made disparaging remarks about the Sangh Parivar, causing the RSS to distance itself from the agitation this time.
If this interpretation is correct, it suggests that the Anna movement lacked popular support even last time and was primarily the creation of the media. Past anti-corruption movements, such as the JP movement in the 1970s, have also been made possible by political parties throwing their weight behind a charismatic or clean figure. The Anna movement petering out on account of lack of any political support thus makes sense.
Many have pointed out that converting the movement into a political party or backing one of the political formations would further erode Anna's standing. Creating a new political party to fight the elections would be an uphill task and would again involve serious compromises.
All this is correct. But the problem is more fundamental. Corruption is not about some individuals being bad guys, the decent guys being those who don't take cash bribes. It is the more sophisticated forms of corruption, such as a politician' next of kin getting contracts for a legitimate business in exchange for favours done to a business group, that are significant in scale and truly dangerous. These are next to impossible to root out. You can stamp out small-time corruption- and this will make life easier for the ordinary man- but stamping out big-time corruption is a tall order.
Corruption is not about individuals, it is about the basic economic and political structures. When a whole system is weighted in favour of a few haves- politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats, professionals or, broadly, the upper middle class - what you have is an exploitative structure in which the beneficiaries are all accomplices in corruption. The middle class manager who looks the other way when his company indulges in dubious practices; the academic who lends respectability to a company or to the government; members of the police force who collude with those in power; media persons who turn a blind eye to rapacity on the part of the powerful; all these are party to corruption in one form or another, regardless of whether there is acceptance of cash bribes or not.
If you have moved up the corporate or bureaucratic or academic or media ladder by not raising your voice against what is questionable, you are party to corruption. I find it amusing that some former members of the establishment are shouting themselves hoarse over corruption after having retired from service. Friends, what were you doing when you were in power?
The font of all corruption is the corporate world. Politicians are merely lesser partners in corruption as the bigger portion of the spoils goes to businessmen, with bureaucrats, managers, policemen and others getting their share in way or another. And yet we heard very little from Team Anna about corporate corruption.
The idea that a corrupt economic structure can be combated by the creation of a new institution, peopled by the very same members of the existing power structure, is sheer nonsense. We need to strengthen democracy in many ways and that means strengthening the existing institutions, not creating some new institution will sweep aside all ills. We may well end up with a Frankenstein monster, the mother of all corrupt institutions.
Are you corrupt? Here is a simple test. Did you have the courage, in the environment in which you are located, to speak up when you were supposed to? Or did you choose to look the other way?