Friday, April 8, 2011

Nation at the crossroads

“Tu idhar udhar ki baat na kar, yeh bata kafila kyun loota”. This is the question Sushma Swawaj asked PM Manmohan Singh in the Parliament recently. And when she asked it, she was echoing the sentiments of millions of Indians who are pained at where we are. When the team of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the country from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the nation was on the threshold of marching into an era of prosperity, happiness and positivity. And its just country misfortune and UPA’s abysmal governance that we need a World Cup victory to rejoice over as something positive in an otherwise negative period. If the nation introspects, it will find the answers. There are many reasons but the biggest reason is the apathy of the great Indian middle class which has brought us to this stage. It’s denial to be a part of the political solution (intentional or stage managed) made it blind and deaf to continuous reminders from likes of L K Advani since 2007 that things are going worse. Starting with mismanagement of anti-terror policy to withering away of the economic growth and now to the menace of corruption, warning signs were always there but both the government and the public ignored those. The result is UPA back in power with higher degree of incompetence, graft, arrogance and unaccountability. So when the second part of the above couplet says “Mujhe rahjaano se gila nahin, teri rahbaari ka sawaal hain”. Here the question is asked not only of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Congress, UPA but to all those who ignored the warning signals in 2009 and brought the country to these crossroads.

Anna Hazare, the grand old man of Maharashtra, is now in Delhi replicating his Maharashtra model. He has successfully fought corruption at all levels in Maharashtra. Now he is on a hunger strike at Jantat Mantar in Delhi against the rampant corruption in the government. He is supported by a number of activists, celebrities, professionals and people from all walks of life. It’s a welcome movement and one has to support it. The anger against the non-stop spate of graft issues is building up the anger of the nation. But there are some dangerous signals coming out of this movement. One of the dangers is people with dubious credentials joining this crusade. One already saw likes of Om Prakash Chautala and Pappu Yadav trying to hog llimelight in this fight. Next is the presence and support from the so-called ‘civil society’. When you have people like Swami Agnivesh, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander support Anna Hazare, you wonder if this all is becoming a setup. These people are the ones running the government by proxy. If Sonia Gandhi is the remote control, they are the batteries. If they cannot fight corruption inspite of being in the system, nation should think twice before trusting them. They have the power, mandate and support of NAC chief Sonia Gandhi to formulate policies to stop graft. Why haven’t they been able to do so till now? If Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy were so concerned about probity in life, why have they not objected or resigned against the shameless corruption of the PM, the cabinet and his allies? Under no circumstances should they be allowed to hijack the movement. If it happens, it will be a repeat of anti-terror movement after 26/11. Instead of making government answerable their aim is to tar every party with same brush. Nation must distinguish that in BJP, a Bangaru Laxman or Yeddiyurappa is an exception but for Congress Sheila Dixit, Vilasrao, Ashok Chavan, Tarun Gogoi, Jaipal Reddy, Suresh Kalmadi are the rules and not just exceptions. So how much ever, the civil society tries to turn the movement to “sab chor hain”, the national agenda should be to remove the corrupt systems put in place by the Congress part y and make it pay for all the corruption of its own and its allies.

One of the main demands of Anna Hazare is Jan Lokpal Bill. Before we say that Jan Lokpal will be the solution to all the corruption problems, there is a need to understand the pros and cons of it. There is no denying that this country needs systemic changes mainly in form of political reforms, judicial reforms and police reforms. But we also need social reforms and corporate reforms. The corruption is so deeply etched in the soul of the society that just countering political corruption won’t be enough. Society too has to introspect and answers some bitter questions. Hating politicians is dangerous since it creates a political vacuum which is always filled by someone who we don’t like. There are institutions like CVC, CBI, and CAG which act as watchdogs against corruption but if they have failed, it is due to political interference as we saw in the case of appointment of CVC Thomas. The current government has systematically corrupted or destroyed institutions like CVC, CEC. Imagine that an ex-CJI faces serious charges of graft and government still relies on him to become National Human Rights Commission chief against all opposition. So even if Jan Lokpal is accepted, there is no guarantee that Congress will let that institution remain pure. So need of the hour is not another institution but a strong resounding punishment to Congress for its rape of the existing institutions. One more thing worrisome about Jan Lokpal is the demand to include members of ‘civil society’. Now this is fraught with dangers mainly because such ‘civil society’ is nothing but a brigade of arrogant charlatans who just push their master’s agenda. One has to find the right checks and balances before finalizing the Lokpal Bill. And this needs a through discussion not just outside Parliament with the jholawalas but also with the members of the Parliament.

As the nation tries to find its way out of the current situation, there is a tendency to create apathy at various levels against anything political. This is a danger to the democracy. The middleclass is already so apathetic that any increase in it would be the death knell of the democracy. The only way to bring change is by increased participation in the political process. Not all is negative. If one looks at the clean governance Gujarat has provided. Recently a study done by an IAS office for WB showed up Gujarat as being the place where corporate did not have to bribe the government. Look at the new laws in Bihar and MP where they have passed laws to act against erring babus. For all its negatives, Karnataka remains the only state where Lok Ayukta is free and fair and same time has been given powers and is not a toothless wonder. All is not lost and all that we as citizens needs to do is to forget diversions like caste, secularism and vote for clean governance.

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