Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Power & Politics/The New Indian Express/April 19, 2011

Night of the long knives

Even though the battlelines have not been publicly defined, the knives are clearly out for Hazare’s Hunters. There is nothing unusual about the venomous diatribe being levelled against the man who’s perceived as an outsider, with a mind and mannerisms of his own. Success, of any kind, tends to attract detractors. And this is success of stupendous scale. But what is baffling is the behaviour of the detractors. They have not been able to find any fault in his message. So they’ve chosen to attack Hazare’s fellow messengers. What they seem to have forgotten is that these are not people of his choosing. These are the people who have credible record of taking on the establishment irrespective of its colour.

But the overall objective of their adversaries seems to be to demoralise, defame, tame and eventually maim Team Hazare.

Though the first meeting of the joint government-civil society meeting on the Lokpal Bill ended on a happy note, suspicious smirks were all too visible on the faces of the pro-establishment forces. They seemed to be openly gloating about their (so-far limited) success in defaming some prominent members of the panel.

You don’t need a telescope to spot the elitist vandals who’ve begun mining Hazare’s movements for dirt. If one goes by both the intensity of the attacks and the instruments used for weakening the anti-corruption campaign, the establishment would seem to be playing an invisible hand. Old and mischievous reports are being dug out, illegally-tapped-and-acquired telephone conversations are being circulated, and a communal angle is being touted to discredit Hazare.

Funnily enough, the tirade is being led by leaders of the most fashionable NGOs, their sponsors based in India and abroad and individuals who have been recipients of liberal government patronage and/or funds from either the government or in known entities operating from other countries They have never subjected themselves or their incomes to public scrutiny. But they are ever willing to hold up the magnifying glass for others. So if Hazare puts up a painting of Bharat Mata behind him on his stage, he becomes communal. If he endorses Modi’s Mantra for Development, he is anti-minority. Some people seem to be under the illusion that it’s their presence at Jantar Mantar that made Anna Hazare credible and acceptable.

But then, such reactions are expected from those who spend the morning sitting in dharna, their afternoon at a seminar, evening in a TV studio and weekends in salubrious surroundings. Over conversations with like-minded souls, they make and unmake prime ministers and chief ministers, decide the fate of the world and generally live in a world of their own.

But what is astonishing is the behaviour of the political class. Their grouse against Hazare seems to be that he has taken up a single point agenda. They have a point, but they should have been at the forefront of expanding that agenda. They paralysed Parliament on a JPC for the 2G scam but didn’t stage even a walkout on the Lokpal Bill, which has been pending for 42 years. None of them has made an attempt to strengthen the Lokayukta in his own state. How many chief ministers, ministers or civil servants have been punished by Lokayuktas in this country? Hardly any. Instead, most of them have either been tamed or maimed and made ineffective.

Hazare may not be another Jayaprakash Narayan in the making. JP was a wily strategist who took the political class into confidence and co-opted student leaders as active partners in his Sampoorana Kranti (Total Revolution). But you can’t deny that Hazare has demolished the established social and political order. He is not a creation of Tweeteratti or TVratti. In fact, those two entities got more followers because of him. Some of their members even camped at Jantar Mantar to be seen or to participate in live TV shows.

But now, they are the ones who feel threatened by Hazare. Because he is shaking the system which helped social and corporate oligarchies to make mountains of money and climb up the social, corporate and political ladder. The system ensured that being seen with each other would generate more business and many more opportunities. Debates in Parliament would be followed by cosy dinners at some lobbyist’s residence, with stars from every sector on display. Decisions about who would get what and where would be taken at these rendezvous.

Mumbai may be the financial capital of the country but it’s the drawing rooms of New Delhi which have become parallel South Blocks and North Blocks over the past decade of massive economic growth. A social audit of the membership of elitist dinner clubs will reveal the beneficiaries of the government’s munificence. Millionaires have turned billionaires, directing and dictating the pace and face of economic policies along the way. How else can one explain the frequent changes in policies relating to national highways, telecommunications, civil aviation, car manufacturing and real estate development? And what about the zero tax on the billions made through manipulative trading at stock exchanges? The revenue lost due to tax concessions to the corporate sector amounts to Rs 5 lakh-crore.

Hazare has just won a minor battle. The frequency and fire power of the attacks to come will strongly test his survival skills. Unless, he targets the origin of corruption, the establishment might just get the better of him.

1 comment:

BK Chowla, said...

Irrespective of political tirade against him by likes of Diggi, Anna will continue to get support of the middle class.