By Arab News
All is well that ends well. India’s Parliament has given in to the demands of Anna Hazare. In a unanimous resolution, the lawmakers have agreed to incorporate the three chief demands of the corruption crusader of bringing the prime minister, lawmakers and bureaucrats under the purview of the proposed anti-graft law.
This is without doubt a huge victory for Hazare, who has been eagerly embraced and lustily cheered on as the “second coming” of Gandhi by the media and middle classes.
But more than anyone, this victory belongs to India’s billion plus people and its vibrant, eclectic democracy. If the lawmakers have been forced to accede to the demands of Hazare and his team, it was chiefly because of the spontaneous groundswell of popular support his fast and cause visibly sparked.
The Congress-led UPA government, which has struggled to respond effectively to the phenomenon called Anna Hazare ending up all red faced, did some damage control by evolving a political consensus in and outside Parliament on the Lokpal issue.
The public sentiment on the issue of corruption has been so overwhelming that political parties, including the Congress, would have resisted the activist’s virtual diktats at their own peril. The popular anger over the succession of numerous scams involving billions of dollars in recent months and years runs deep.
The septuagenarian activist and his fellow travelers successfully tapped into and exploited this anger. Hazare managed to gather a crowd representing all sections of society essentially because of the universal appeal of his cause.
But the Anna show raises several troubling questions. Even if the much debated anti-corruption law and the institution of Lokpal comes into being, is it really going to prove the magic wand that would rid India of the cancer of corruption gnawing at its vitals? We doubt it. Graft runs like blood in the system. One watchdog, however powerful, cannot cleanse the body politic.
What India needs, or for that matter any other country, is an all-out, long-term, effective and sustained national movement to fight the scourge. In a country where nothing moves or happens without a bribe, it’s naive to assume that populist antics demanding instant solutions and results would deliver the nation.
Secondly, the most disturbing aspect of the whole business is the tendency of a handful of people to force their “solutions” and laws down the throat of a billion strong democracy and its representatives, using emotional blackmail — hunger strike — and political coercion by using the mob.
While any effort to cleanse the system is welcome, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this so-called crusade against corruption has set a dangerous precedent. Anna’s cause is of course noble. But what if tomorrow someone else tries this shortcut to power and instant karma?
What if extremist groups like the RSS, VHP and their political avatar BJP tomorrow bring the mob out on the streets demanding the government and Parliament accept their divisive, fascist agenda? Given the history of these organizations and their goals, these apprehensions are hardly unjustified. The so-called people power can also be used or abused to subvert the democratic institutions and rule of law the country has built over the past six decades.
What distinguishes India from many of its neighbors is its amazing democratic experience defying great odds and a million mutinies. The Indians mustn’t allow anything or anyone to undermine this extraordinary achievement.