Bill Da Mamla Hai

34 Comments

It has been an eventful few weeks for the anti-corruption juggernaut in India. One of its mastheads was dealt some fauladi mukkas, another had a shoe thrown at him and yet another found some pesky travel receipts turning up in the wrong place. Now if only half this drama had taken place in Big Boss’s house, life would have been bearable.

It was inevitable that  in an effort to “Kill the Bill” the powers-that-be would come after each of the agent provocateurs with pliers and blowtorch (ala “Pulp Fiction”) and that in their ranks, would be unearthed a plant like Mr. Orange of “Reservoir Dogs” (Swami Agnivesh). The strategy over the past few months, has been simple: dig till something turns up. And since  none of us have lead blemishless lives, one could, given the resources available to the authorities and to the sympathetic sections of the press, always uncover something that would be embarrassing—if not spurious air-travel bills, then definitely songs on your hard-drive that you do not have receipts for.

Lest it appear so, I am not one of those who would justify or trivialize what Kiran Bedi has been accused of doing. In any corporate environment with reasonable travel policies, travelling free on accrued miles and then charging the company for it or travelling by car and charging the company airfare would lead to a severe censure at best and dismissal at worst. And no, the fact that the money went to her NGO has no bearing—politicians also claim that “donations” go to party coffers and not to their personal treasure chest. That still is corruption, plain and simple.

In the larger context though,  the “personal” histories of those leading the anti-corruption movement, embarrassing and damning as they be, should not have anything to do with our perception of it, which should ideally be guided purely by what it proposes to do and how it proposes to do it.

However we do not live in an ideal world. And if today the line between the personalities behind the IAC and the goals behind IAC are being blurred, a large part of the blame should lie at the door of the IAC itself.

It all started with the viral strategy of spinning Anna Hazare into a modern-day Gandhi. In a country that loves its deities, constructing a personality cult is easy and effective. Let children sing his paeans on popular reality shows. Let camera-friendly twenty-somethings prance about with “I am Anna” on their faces. Package the whole thing, at a time when no cricket was on, as “India’s second freedom movement” so that every one could feel the exhilarating “I am a freedom fighter” rush.

Perfect.

This packaging however has proven to be a two-edged sword. All that the government had to do was to cut the power to the rotating halo and everything the IAC stood for would immediately be put under a cloud. It was not a difficult thing to do since Anna, who had once supported the flogging of drunkards, was obviously no Gandhi. And neither were the others Patel or Azad or even Nehru.

The essential problem is that the whole corruption struggle has been framed as “The Perfectly White” vs “The Perfectly Black” whereas in reality it is merely the “The Less Bad” vs “The Really Really Multihundred crore Bad”. (And yes, in corruption as in everything else, degree matters: picking a pocket isn’t the same as robbing a bank). If things had been done otherwise, the focus could have stayed off the personal histories of those helming the movement and stayed more on the issues. But then perhaps we wouldn’t have quite seen the mass madness we saw a few months ago.

Readers of this blog would know how skeptical I have been about the Anna movement, the personality cult at the heart of it and its “Pass this Bill now or I will shoot myself” type of political blackmail which I believe has little place in a society where avenues for democratic redress of grievances remain (which is why Ramlila Maidan was never Tahrir Square). However, of late, I have been heartened to see the IAC platform campaigning in elections, ironically a move that has been widely criticized.

This is because I believe that if the IAC truly represents a serious mass movement of empowered individuals cutting across cities and villages, unified by their determination to wipe out corruption (and this is a big “if”), then the best way for it to move forward is for it to form an apolitical front with a single point agenda: “As a candidate, pledge to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passsed if elected and regardless of your party affiliation, we will support your election efforts.” In that way, the IAC could endeavor to get their bill passed in a democratic way as opposed to the sensationalism, brinkmanship and extra-constitutionalism that has characterized much of its agitation till now. I still may not agree to its basic tenet, namely that a super-committee will solve all problems but at least I can say that if it passes, then it truly is the will of the people, regardless of whether I agree to  every thing about it.

But unfortunately, having chosen to piggyback the movement on the personal credibilities of certain individuals (some would say this dependence on certain special “people”  is a fundamental flaw inherent in the basic premise of the Jan Lok Pal itself), the whole IAC movement has painted itself into a corner. As the bunnies are being brought out of the hat by the gloating magician, Anna has to go into fire-fighting mode, censuring one, disowning the other and groaning about Illuminati-type “Gang of Four” conspiracies, all just to stay afloat, while those that should have been losing sleep round about now, if only because they do not want corruption to become a major election issue, are smiling to themselves— “Too easy, way too easy”.

 

 

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34 thoughts on “Bill Da Mamla Hai

  1. What is more sickening for me is that big daddies of corruption like Sharad Pawar and others can stay out of limelight. The multihundred/thousand crores guy does not get the spotlight but the few thousands one does. Fine, Kiran Bedi is corrupt. How about blogs and articles on the big fish? Dam hai?

  2. Great post. And well-tackled. I had thought that the A-Team should stand in the Elections or at least have a political front to have credibility in a democratic system like ours.. but they have quickly and badly lost the plot.

    P.S.: My opinion on the whole chaos here – http://pickledkhopri.blogspot.com/2011/08/at-other-end-of-extremism.html {Sorry for pimping it here, but do read if you have the time :-)}

    Also, @Deep3rdMan, you haven’t really gone through the whole Blog yet, have you?

  3. Very well written!

    This should also remind people that they need to root out corruption from their own life rather than wait for a “Chamatkar”…

  4. Sign of the times. The government basically is doing whatever it wants with absolute scorn for propriety. Another instance is that BJP MPs who exposed the cash for votes scam are behind jail while the scammers are in power. And there is not even an outrage over it in the media.

  5. It is kind of sad that people who are leading this movement doesn’t have the level-headness which is reflected from your post. I do agree the Jan Lokpal bill has many flaws but believe that it could be a good start to root out corruption from the political establishment. Morever the level of awareness and mass mobilization it has created is worth applauding. But what is unfortunate here is the people leading instead of taking an apolitical stand, are simply taking the same political murky route of mudslinging, sensationalization etc. I am afraid that this movement will die down quicker than it gained the momentum.

  6. This proves it. The INC consists of the most intelligent manipulators in India. In spite of its shamelessly corrupt practices and its sleazy leaders, the party knows how to fight like none other. When shit hits the fan, these guys always find an umbrella, but also find a way to fling the shit back at those who tried to hit them.

    India’s single biggest tragedy is that the INC absolutely refuses to use its palpable Machiavellian talents to protect Indian interests abroad, and to better the lives of Indian people at home.

  7. Bedi is now alleged to have availed 75 per cent discount from the Indian Airlines by signing a declaration. In case of availing the concession, one has to declare through a certificate that he/she will neither claim this in part or full from anyone.

    “If Bedi has signed this certificate and availed the concession only to claim the same, the money belongs to the airline concerned and she should be asked to pay it back

    It takes years to build a reputation, but it takes minutes to destroy it.

    She was an ex DGP- would she have allowed her subordinates to fudge bills and accept an explanation that they did charity out of the difference money ??

    What moral right does she have to sit in judgement at govt servants, when she herself has been a self seeking PETTY THIEF ??

  8. Well analysed!!! No one collects illegal money for their own benefit. Other than buying a few expensive gadgets for self, all of it either lies in the banks, or donated for good causes, or spent at education or weddings of poor family members….

  9. @Dibyojyoti: “Also, @Deep3rdMan, you haven’t really gone through the whole Blog yet, have you?”

    All signs point to “YES.”

    BTW, nice take on this issue on your blog.

  10. “…It was not a difficult thing to do since Anna, who had once supported the flogging of drunkards, was obviously no Gandhi. And neither were the others Patel or Azad or even Nehru.”

    – But the perception that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Azad were totally clean leaders has been created by political parties and the media themselves.

    How can we be sure that, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Azad were in reality not just like Anna, Kejriwal or Bedi?

    Maybe, in reality … their personalities and behaviours had the same blemishes of which we will never get to know…

    So i have never really been comfortable with these comparisons…

    We take these IAC guys for what they are today and now…. and see if they are better than the other choices we have.

  11. I totally disagree with you.
    its not realistic to start a party, win elections and then pass the bill. so what if a person in IAC has a bad record. put her behind curtains and place a new member in her place. whatever little awakening Anna has brought in the masses shouldnt fade away

  12. @Apurv Anand Just Brilliant!!

    I admire the new greatbong..i miss the fun which arnav clearly seems to be having when writing articles 2-3 years ago..but i just have a strange sense of balance when reading his newer posts..

  13. In between all these, the UPA is slowly and behind back doors trying to pass the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill. Subramaniam Swamy had already filed a FIR against Sonia and other NAC members like Teesta Seetalvad. None of the major papers like TOI or IBN Live even ever mentioned it.

  14. @Deva: “whatever little awakening Anna has brought in the masses shouldnt fade away”

    Those wailing about governmental corruption and LPB need to look within themselves and they’ll find an entity willing to shell out a little extra to escape a traffic ticket or move his/her file to the top of the pile. Whatever awakening Anna brought is misdirected. The true culprit here is the culture of corruption that is ingrained in every Indian citizen- bar none

  15. In most “developed” countries, corruption occurs when someone takes a bribe (monetary or in kind) to do something that would normally be illegal. It is only in India where bribes need to be given on daily basis for people (mostly government employees) to do what they are paid to do anyway – it is not anything illegal. Whether getting a berth on a railway sleeper or getting your car license, we are used to doling out some extra money to avoid delay or just to make our lives easier.
    I am not sure if we are ready for all to be treated equally – each case on merit?

  16. somehow between the ra.one post and the afridi post i missed this one. Great POst, i cannot although fathom how that kind of crass marketing worked, i found it crass as it was as if no one had read the backgrounds of the frontmen of IAC. not only that, the strategy of making a jan lokpal bill in itself was too shallow. Also the govt-is-black-we-are-white attitude and (in your words)“Pass this Bill now or I will shoot myself” type of political blackmail” in way is just another form of taliban (degree not withstanding)

    In no way do i want to dismiss the need of a anti corruption measure which is a major cause of concern. but the convenient media attention grabbing movement has only fallen through because of their own discrepancies.

    Also arnab, the reason i criticise their moving to politics is that, after all of this it looks as if this was their final destination. they wanted to enter politics with a bang. as a solid contender to BJP and Congress, as opposed to being in a smaller state level politics and then rising slowly. Their ambitions appear to the crude. It would have probably helped if some joined politics and supported the movement. why did it take them so long to take that route?

  17. Bye now it’s fairly clear that they were being supported, morally and financially by the BJP and RSS. Which by itself is fine. However the impression I get is that this support was covert, even to the members of the core committee. People like Prashant Bhushan are known progressives, opposing oppressive laws like AFSPA, while Anna and the RSS love these “iron hand” laws. So when Bhushan opposed AFSPA, the shit hit the fan.

    The movement will never be the same again.

  18. By now it’s fairly clear that they were being supported, morally and financially by the BJP and RSS. Which by itself is fine. However the impression I get is that this support was covert, even to the members of the core committee. People like Prashant Bhushan are known progressives, opposing oppressive laws like AFSPA, while Anna and the RSS love these “iron hand” laws. So when Bhushan opposed AFSPA, the shit hit the fan.

    The movement will never be the same again.

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