Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Banalities and Platitudes Unlimited!!

One is very clear that any further dissection of the Anna Hazare Movement (AHM) is the blogging equivalent of hara-kiri, simply because the topic has been humongously over-exposed during the past few weeks.  There is very little that is meaningful to add to the pile that has already been produced by mouths, which did not close during all the churning.  As for meaningless dribble, well, let us not go there at all, since that is a bigger heap.  My focus in this piece is not the principal event itself; as in the case of modern banking where every primary deal creates a few derivative opportunities, here too, one can perceive some such avenues and I am taking one.  Banalities and platitudes are inseparable from politicians and during the past 3 weeks,  while they were being cornered and made to squirm with uncomfortable questions, many of the tribe obliged with statements of characteristic banal quality.

The pride of place in this series is given to our Prime Minister.  A man of very few words even on his best day, he decided to find a place in history with the exemplarily inane `I dont have a magic wand to take care of corruption' and `Just one law is not going to eradicate corruption'.  As if this mind-blowing profundity begged reiteration, Rahul Gandhi stressed on this gem during his epoch-making speech in Lok Sabha.  Many other politicians, cutting across party lines, enthusiastically agreed with the PM, since they needed some defence, any defence!  Very gratifying, but I wonder who from AHM told any of these worthies that when Lokpal bill is passed corruption would be history!  Not even the commonest of common men, in his wildest dreams, ever entertained the notion that this bill is the panacea for that debilitating malady India suffers from; he may not be vocal, but he is not dumb.  So, this bit of condescension on the part of the politicians just adds grievous insult to the festering injury carried by people for ages.   When Dr.Singh took his baby steps in the early 90s to open up the economy, one does not remember him saying `I dont have one sweeping solution to fix our economy and poverty; so I cringe from taking the first logical step'.  Subsequently many initiatives have been taken on that front and Dr.Singh has presided over many of them.  So, why this nervous breakdown for over 40 years when it comes to taking the basic step of passing a solid anti-corruption bill??  When dithering politicians bleat out such a lame excuse, it just shows them up for what they are - a bunch of mollycoddlers of corruption.  But one must concede that as a tactic it is brilliant - if you dont take the first move and stall at the beginning, you have nowhere to go and politicians have successfully played this game out all these years.

Then comes the `Parliament is Supreme' shout.  As if people have been trying to pass the Lokpal bill on Ramlila grounds with a thumping majority!  As if, Anna Hazare was going to proclaim from his fasting area that the ordinance on Lokpal was being promulgated.  No, that was not the concern; the politicos were bristling because, for a change, people who normally elected them and left them to their own conniving devices, were telling them now what to do right and how!! Our politicians are a spoiled lot and they like doing what suited them and their private constituencies.  Status-quo in this context suited their way of life best - `get elected and keep your personal pens dipped in the perennially nourishing public ink-pot'.  Any attempt to change that is offensive to them, naturally. So, they took umbrage at the massive public upsurge not only against corruption, but also their own inaction and indifference.  What they are saying is `We are the elected representatives; we have not done our jobs for 4 decades and will not change; but who are you to suddenly wake up and force me in the right direction, to think about common good enshrined in the constitution?'.  So much for the `sanctity of the parliament'.  We know that these are the very people who cannot even stick to the basic, civil way of doing business inside that august building for a few hours at a stretch and have brought dishonour to the institution in more ways than one.  As I write this, some ruckus has broken out in the Rajasthan state assembly, with shoes being hurled by elected representatives, who doubtless, would otherwise want the public to recognize the supremacy of the legislature!!  That sums up my brief nicely, thank you.

Mayawati, Shard Yadav and few others lit up the horizon with another flash when they chose to take a myopic view of the issue and asked for Dalit representation in the Standing Committee reviewing the various versions of the bill.  As if otherwise,the recommended law would pointedly help fight corruption everywhere except when  Dalits are involved.  And Sharad Yadav went one step further and said that Anna Hazare did not mention the name of Ambedkar even once.  Anna did not mention many names, so what? What does that make him??  A traitor of the cause?  Anna is standing firm on his demand that lower bureaucracy should be brought under Lokpal's purview only to ensure that the poorest and most downtrodden people can get some reprieve from the harassment of minor government officials for bribes.  These politicians who shed copious crocodile tears for that segment of the population refuse to see the big picture but would prefer to ride roughshod inside a casteist or communal tea-cup to perpetuate their vote-bank politics.

Then comes along Syed Bukhari and forbids Muslims from taking part in the protest.  Why?  Because protestors sing Vande Mataram from time to time during the day.  Some other Muslim leaders supported Bukhari.  So, if the bill is passed and its implementation improves the fight against corruption, thereby yielding some benefit to the public, will Bukhari and his band of leaders urge Muslims to forfeit the benefits and continue to pay bribes? Just because the genesis of this bill had some association with Vande Mataram during public protests?  How ridiculous would that be?  Isn't there ever a time for leaders to set aside religious and casteist  overtones and behave like sensible men who genuinely desire improvement at the ground level for people?  I guess not.

Manish Tiwari surpassed himself in the act of casting aspersions on Anna, the way he would have usually done with any differing politico from across the party line.  He has since apologised; but it seems that the somewhat eloquent among the politicians tend to take themselves very seriously just because they have a marginally better vocabulary!!  It is best not to dignify Manish Tiwari further by writing anything about him or what he said.

The suave Salman Khurshid served up this gem at the finale - `we (the government) did not make any mistakes; there were some errors of judgement'.  You are on the dot, sir.  You are never at fault.  People are the fools committing one enormous mistake after another for the past few decades.  May be, just may be, there is some hope of seeing some corrections kicking in now!!

Finally, the post debate outcome in the parliament just makes one smile wryly.  All the political parties generally supported the bill with some riders here and there.  It almost seems that they have all been bursting at their seams to get a tight anti-corruption bill in place for over 40 years and the people at large have been denying them this pleasure all along.  Now that the people are agitating for that, voila, `here we are - completely on your side, despite your deliberate insult to the institution of parliament and despite your blatant attempts at bypassing the elected representatives'!!  Jai Hind.

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