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Sunday, August 21, 2011

UPA's credibility is now history

For the past few days and in a desperate attempt to counter the middle-class euphoria over Anna Hazare, a beleaguered Congress has been cashing many of the IOUs it has accumulated over the past seven years.

NAC member Harsh Mander, the unchallenged King of sanctimoniousness and the great proponent of communal budgeting of state resources, has denounced Anna’s crusade as “a Right-leaning, fascist campaign to push for an extremely regressive legislation”. Aruna Roy, another NAC member and the Queen Bee of the NGO movement, has proffered her own version of outsourced legislation — one that apparently travels the middle path between the official Lokpal Bill and Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill. To cap it all, former Infosys chief and the present head of the UID scheme (with the status of a Cabinet Minister) has made TV appearances expressing his unhappiness with the “uni-dimensional” approach of Team Anna and the need for a “much more strategic, holistic” approach.

Nilekani’s critique of the Anna movement can’t be dismissed lightly. He issued a testimonial to Indian parliamentary democracy and particularly the functioning of parliamentary committees. At the same time, he mocked the simplistic bantering that has characterised Team Anna: “Which Kool-Aid are they drinking?” Kool-Aid, I was informed by Wikipedia, is a “brand of flavoured drinks owned by Kraft Foods.” Nilekani could, perhaps, have been less global with his choice of metaphors to state his astonishment with Team Anna’s certitudes. Yet, if Twitter is any indication, he was berated for allowing himself to become a “mouthpiece” for the Government. A few months ago, India’s middle-class twitterati would have treated every word and sentence he uttered as Gospel truth. Today, he is being viewed as part of the rotten elite that is beholden to the Government. It wasn’t what he said that was questioned but why he chose to go public now.

In the coming days, and irrespective of whether the Anna campaign turns more strident or begins wilting, the Government bid to create a less excitable public mood will intensify. From August 16 to the installation of Anna in Ram Lila Maidan three days later, the entire focus was on the Government’s ill-conceived preventive detention, the assault on the Government in Parliament and its unconditional surrender to Team Anna. The Government stood discredited, with a large omelette on its face and its authority in shreds. Most important, for three days the Government successfully turned a populist, anti-corruption movement into an anti-Congress movement. In just three days, the Congress frittered away the goodwill of Middle India.

Yet, no Government capitulates so easily. Manish Tewari’s assault on the integrity of Anna Hazare didn’t click and neither did Rashid Alvi’s comic attempt to locate an American hand behind the movement. At the same time, the abrupt elevation of Anna into a “hero” and “hero of heroes” by Sanjay Nirupam and Harish Rawat has looked patently disingenuous, coming as it did with the news that the Government actually wanted to ‘deport’ Anna back to his village in Maharashtra on August 16. The Congress (and, in fact, most political parties) often forget that people aren’t fools and will believe whatever drivel is served to them. It is easier to persuade courtiers to forgive past sins and come to the aid of the party than to regain lost public goodwill instantly.

I can say with near certainty that the next few weeks will see reports of weariness with street protests, exasperation with unreasonable politics, the unresponsiveness of minorities and Dalits to middle-class protests and, finally, the silent majority’s wish that the Government gets on with the job of governing. Apart from the difficulties of maintaining sustained interest in one story, the media too is susceptible to official cajoling and arm-twisting. This matters in times of economic difficulties.

On August 20, for example, Government departments issued 69 advertisements spread over 41 pages in 12 daily English newspapers to commemorate Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary. It is said that the total expenditure for this occasion last year was between Rs 60 crore and 70 crore. And this was a commemoration that excluded the electronic media. When that is brought into the purview of campaigns like Bharat Nirman and advertisements made by agencies with close ties to daughters-in-law and nephews of Ministers, the sums involved can be mind boggling. In short, it doesn’t make business sense for the media to persist with the shrill anti-Government campaign of the past week. This isn’t a matter of politics; it’s prudent business.

In the coming days, the stage will be set for Team Anna to undertake suicide missions and become increasingly reckless. Actually, that is not asking for too much. The sight of doting crowds spontaneously assembled, 24x7 news coverage and a belief in their own manifest destiny can turn many heads. Kiran Bedi’s “India is Anna” remark, Prashant Bhushan’s sneering espousal of plebiscitary democracy that is calculated to generate anarchy, Swami Agnivesh’s slipperiness and Anna’s own innocent understanding of public life will come under sustained gaze. The hyenas are waiting for them to slip up, and slip up they will. The Anna movement may well falter, but will it restore the Government’s credibility? That, unfortunately, is history. Unless a political miracle takes place, India seems set for a long innings of lame-duck governance. Anna may not get to taste success, but he has begun the halal killing of this Government.

Sunday Pioneer, August 21, 2011


Vivek said...

Following are the statistics from Election Commission of India web site regarding 2009 (April-May) elections for Lok Sabha constituency of Chandini Chowk, New Delhi. Mr Kapil Sibal won the election from there.

Total Electors – 1413535
Total votes cast – 780445
Sibal’s votes – 465713 – nearly 33% of total electors

Electors who did not vote, i.e. votes which may not be for Mr. Sibal: 1413535 – 780445 = 633090 i.e. nearly 45% of total electors

Confirmed votes against Sibal: - 780445 – 465713 = 314732 i.e. 22% of total electors

Vivek said...

With above numbers and illustration, lets analyze the first-past-the-post system of elections. Of 1413535 (total population of constituency will obviously be more), only 780445 cast their votes. 633090 electors (1413535 – 780445), we cannot be sure whether they would have cast their votes for Mr. Sibal. But, presumption should be that since they had not come out to vote, their vote would obviously have been against Sibal, or else, had they been enthused by Mr Sibal, they would have surely come out and voted in his favor. So, total votes against Mr Sibal are 947822 [(314732+633090) or (1413535 – 465413)], which works out to nearly 67%.

And how votes of these 465713 electors was secured by Mr Sibal.? On his merits? No. Most of them voted for him because of his ‘secular’ credentials (read sympathetic to Muslims) of Congress Party. And how these electors were tried to be won over? By devious means like berating the honor of police men who died in the Batala House (near Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi) encounter on September 2008 while trying to flush out militants from there. In other words, blatant communal politics.

So, this is the beauty of our parliamentary system. A person for whom only 465713 votes are cast, but against whom there are 947822 voters i.e. more than double the votes in favor, is elected as MP. And then with beating of chests it pronounced ‘We are the elected the representatives’, ‘We will make the laws’, and these 947822 voters are creating tyranny of the unelected!!!

Vivek said...

I am sure if above kind of analysis is carried out for all the parliamentary constituencies, you would find same results – more electors against the elected MP, then his/her favor.
So, how can Parliament be said to representative of people? It is in fact against majority of the electors.

No system of governance is perfect, least of all democracy and a parliamentary democracy at that. So, what should be done? Shamelessly exploit the weaknesses of the system for personal gains, or with humility accept the weaknesses, and work around them so as not to damage the system?

Lets continue with above numbers. Should 947822 electors in Sibal’s constituency, who either voted against him or did not vote, have no right to be heard after the elections are over? Honest, mature and wise politician would be aware that he has been elected by a minority of the total population of his constituency, and will try to hear the voice of all the people, as far as practical. Because that is not being done, we have Anna Hazare’s movement. It is voice of all the people who have either voted against their current MP or did not vote at all. It is a perfectly legitimate voice in our democratic system. In fact, it is filling a much needed vaccum or corrective to a serious lacunae in our parliamentary system. It is height of stupidity to call it tyranny of unelected, as Manish Tiwary did. In fact, so far we have been suffering from the tyranny of the elected. Or even, the unelected like Manmohan Singh, and to be more precise, defeated in popular Lok Sabha elections from New Delhi.

Vivek said...

Now a constitutional question can be raised, of right to political protest by organizing rallies, protest, agitation etc. This right is guaranteed by cumulative reading of Article 19(a) - to 19(d) of Constitution of India, 1950 [freedom of speech and expression, 19(b) – assemble peacefully, 19(c) form associations, and 19(d) move freely through out the country]. Now, fact is – Mr Sibal is elected by 465713 electors, with 947822 electors against him. Question is – can one representative of only 465713 electors deny 947822 electors right of political protest, by saying Parliament is supreme? Everyone else, except Mr. Sibal, has got the answer to this question correct.

Talking Skull said...

Absolutely brilliant, realistic and spot-on assessment of the situation we stare at today. I have been a regular reader of your blogs and everytime you leave me hungry for more... :-)

BTW, looking forward to your views on the Poschim Bongo (That name makes me cringe!!) fiasco....

seadog4227 said...

Thanks for those telling stats Vivek!.

sudhakar said...

very wellwritten and balanced blog. could not miss one irony. anna was branded corrupt because he spent rs 2 lacs on his birthday celebrations from his trust. but govt spending 70 cr public money annually on rajiv gandhi advt is not crime. reminds me of " ham kare woh chamatkar tum kare to b@l@tkar (of 3 idiots)"e irony. anna was branded corrupt because he spent rs 2 lacs on his birthday celebrations from his trust. but govt spending 70 cr public money annually on rajiv gandhi advt is not crime. reminds me of " ham kare woh chamatkar tum kare to b@l@tkar (of 3 idiots)"

Anonymous said...

I am amused by Vivek's maths. The voters, who did not vote, did not NOT vote for only Mr. Sibal. They did not vote for other contestants too! Therein lies the fault in this attempt at arithmetic by Mr. Vivek. Mere avivek. Was it so difficult to see?

Anonymous said...

This fasting as a weapon to weed out corruption does not impress me at all.

Recall what Sarojini Naidu said about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's routine fasts.

A lot of Indians have been starving in Orissa & many places for so many years all dutifully highlighted by Indian media. Did Indian politicians turn into angels ??

Anna Hazare is old. Old people don't feel as hungry as when they were younger. He has been conferred messiah status as art of living SSSSSRavishankar . The latter also says he eats nothing much. Thus he made trillions.

Nowadays , affluent people have become very figure conscious.Hence a lot of them eat only fruits & such gourmet stuff. Does it mean they are all holy renunciates ??

CSS said...

"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is a common phrase in reference to the Jonestown massacre. Did you really not know that Mr. Dasgupta? Or was it just an easy potshot at somebody who trying to make a point?

Vivek said...

Mrr Annonymous..I agree, those who had not voted were against all candidates, which would include Kapil Sibal too!! Also, votes are cast after months of campaining, and even after that if voters havee not come out to vote, that it is not merely presumption, but faact that they were against winning candidate...Regards...Vivek