February 27, 2021
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A Symbolic Victory

A Symbolic Victory

So 83 hours later, the government finally gave in.

It was not the usually smug and self-satisfied —but a visibly crestfallen —Kapil Sibal that announced the government's decision that the UPA had ostensibly agreed to all of Mr Anna Hazare's demands and that a “government order” constituting the 10-member joint committee would be issued tomorrow.

It need not have been so graceless to start with, persisting right through Day 4 with, among others, Mr Abhisekh Manu Singhvi's histrionics.

Given the mass-scale revulsion against recent, seemingly non-stop series of scams, there was an air of inevitability about it and the UPA had not done its cause any good by announcing its absurd Lokpal Bill.

The attempt to spin today's decision, on the fourth day, as some sort of magnanimity on the part of the UPA chairperson or the PM is nothing but typical craven behaviour ingrained in Congress culture.

Mr Kapil 'Zero Loss on 2G Spectrum Allocation'  Sibal, with no sense of irony, also added for good measure: “We are on the same page with civil society in fighting the scourge of corruption. Both sides have confidence in each other.”

On the part of the protesters, Mr Shanti Bhushan, who has been announced as a co-chairperson of the committee to draft the new—revised, and hopefully improved —Bill, has already announced this as the biggest victory for people power after 1977, and declared that the celebrations should begin across the country.

Yes, this is cause for cheer. But just one cheer—not even for two, leave alone three.

The proof of the pudding, as they say, would be in the eating.

The activists on the panel — Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Santosh Hegde —would of course know that they are dealing with past masters of obfuscation —Pranab Mukherjee (chairman), P. Chidambaram, Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal — and that the government's decision of an order, which can be withdrawn, as against a gazetted notification, may well only be a tactical ploy to buy time.

The UPA as usual would soon be back to its blatant, brazen ways, claiming that they have done exactly what the people wanted on corruption and that they need to be complimented, hoping that all their scams would be forgotten.

Just the way various party and government spokespeople seek to spin the arrest of Mr Raja by the CBI acting under the SC as UPA's great favour to India.

Even the most perfect bill — which of course yet remains a very distant dream — by itself will not be able to solve the pervasive and corrosive corruption that we are surrounded by.

Let's remember that strengthening of autonomous and independent institutions remains a long way off.

It might also be time to take another look at the wide-range reforms suggested by, among others, the govt's own Administrative Reforms Committees.

Yes, perhaps it is time to acknowledge that a first, small, significant step has been taken in the war against corruption.

But let's retain perspective: this was just one small, symbolic battle.

A full-scale, hostile  war looms ahead.

So all one can hope for is that the newly set-up committee is able to get down to drafting a serious bill with teeth that would not suffer from the various infirmities and absurdities clearly visible in various Jan Lokpal drafts.

So much for the dark clouds. Now on to the big silver lining.

There are many reasons to smile as well. Despite the known, credible face of Mr Hazare, which was the rallying point, the movement was youth-driven. For all those perpetually moaning and groaning about the apolitical and apathetic youth, the outpouring on the streets should have been a big silver lining.

And that it was totally non-violent.

Various opportunists and usual suspects and busybodies tried, but were largely kept away — the movement remained largely non-party-political.

And it seemed to have been perfectly timed too. After the world cup and just before the IPL madness.

It would be a shame to let all this positive energy that defeated the cynicism of the naysayers be dissipated, and the danger of that initiative being taken away from civil society is very real.

Let's remember that this one succeeded only because the revulsion against corruption was so pervasive —almost as pervasive as corruption itself.

Who represents the people and who speaks for the so-called "civil society" are all good questions to engage with. But let's remember that (a) no body has stopped others from stepping forward to participate and (b) in the end, it would still be Parliament where the bills would be passed— or not passed, as has happened to it all these years, or like, say, the much hyped Women's Reservation bill.

Yet, it might give ideas to many disruptive and dissenting groups to adopt similar measures for various demands.

With the snows melting, it could well prove to be a deluge. It promises to be one long, hot summer...

The government will have its job cut out.


BTW, have a lot to say on much of the —some of it very valid, but mostly simply missing the point — criticism of the Jan Lokpal Bill and the hurried "work in progress FAQ" that has remained neglected after the first day.

For now, let me just add a few tweets from yesterday in response to the campaign against the protests at Jantar Mantar:

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