The Indian democracy is going through a very significant phase. Most of what has been happening recently was not even envisioned only a short time ago. The corruption in our political and bureaucratic system had been well entrenched. The systemic restraints built in our constitution were carefully dismantled by the various elements of our government. The politicians and the bureaucrats were well positioned, secure, and fearlessly enjoying the bounty made available to them through corrupt means. The order was well established and they were on top of the food chain. Once they were elected they belonged to the ruling class. The subjects that they ruled over were asked to shut up and put up for the next five years. They became essentially irrelevant to the affairs of the country. It was now the sole domain of the ruling class – the government. Citizen had no business in questioning or meddling with the affairs of the government.
... And then came the Anna Hazare Movement ...
All of a sudden a few individual who called themselves members of the civil society, galvanized the entire nation through their Satyagraha movement to raise voice against corruption and the unwillingness of the government over the past 40+ years to address it. In the beginning it was taken lightly by the ruling UPA. Their designated spokespersons (sometimes undesignated if that served the purpose) lashed out on the movement. They tried everything that they were trained in the course of politics to discredit the movement. They called it redundant, unconstitutional, blackmail, sponsored by special interests, infested by corrupt and incredulous elements and dangerous to the democratic system of the country.
To their amazement they found that nobody (except their own elements) believed them. The more they tried to discredit it, the more was the outrage felt by the country which spread like a wild fire and became a nationwide movement within a few short days. So stupendous was the spread of this movement that not only it shocked the ruling UPA, it even surprised the civil society movement organizers who had come in at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to weather it out over a long haul. The rest of the political group besides UPA, confused and bewildered with the rapid spread of this movement scurried to support it albeit mostly for their own political gain at the expense of UPA.
The UPA had no choice but to give in. Any further resistance would have only spelled bigger disaster for its own survival. So startled were several cabinet ministers within the UPA that for several days they could not hide their own dismay and continued to criticize it in bumbling incoherent manners.
Now they have a tiger by the tail. They cannot tame it and at the same time they cannot let go of it. The actions from the past have come back to bite. When it comes to corruption, they have no credibility with the people they “represent”.
There are some fundamental questions being raised. Do they have the fundamental and absolute right to represent the people they have been elected by to be the custodian of their assets to the exclusion of the same people? Do they still have to answer to these people, everyday of their five year term, as to how good a job they are doing in managing their assets? If so, how? Are the mechanisms to allow this accountability built within our democratic constitution? If so, why are they not working? If not, how can they be restored? Who will restore them? Can the same elements who have distorted and denigrated the system be trusted to restore it? Who is the ultimate sovereign here: the elected representatives, the bureaucrats or the people? What if their vested interests are significantly different?
We are at crossroads here. The corruption in our government has brought out these fundamental questions. If the government goes in a denial mode to suit the past inclinations, major turmoil is likely to follow. We are fast reaching the point of no return.
Baba Ramdev has already announced that he will begin his Satyagraha, a fast until death, starting June 4 at the Ram Lila grounds in New Delhi. He plans to go on this indefinite fast demanding that the government bring back black money stashed in tax havens abroad. His followers seem to be emulating Anna Hazare and are going all out to drum up public support. Over 3.2 million people are believed to have registered for the nationwide campaign. The newly formed ministerial panel on media met to discuss what could become another major embarrassment for the government.
The government, at this point the UPA, has two choices:
1. Deny the obvious, fight the movement, risk bearing another national outcry of support to Ramdev and eventually risk losing the power.
2. Take a pro-active pasture. Engage sincerely with Ramdev and the organizers of the movement, agree with the valid points, modify a few radical demands (such as mandatory death penalty etc), set a mutually agreed upon time table and pursue the principal objective of reclaiming the black money abroad and punishing the guilty.
Unfortunately, the second choice goes against the past actions and the vested interests of the government. It may end up incriminating and bringing to justice several of its own members. As painful as it may appear to UPA, it is the only choice for their survival.
Thou shall reap what thou sowed!
Meanwhile, other such “Satyagrahas” are brewing all over the country like cyclones in a hot humid weather ready to surface one after another.