Over the past few weeks, we in India have been witness to a divide between the common man, who is invariably rooting for Anna Hazare, and the ‘intellectuals’, many of whom have not just questioned Hazare’s credentials but resorted to sophistry, claiming that his movement will not wipe out corruption and only harm democracy.
The people who have written against Hazare are some of India’s best-known social scientists, people whose articles we read on edit pages or who are seen on TV explaining the world to us in 30 seconds. Some of their points are valid, but it is a classic case of missing the woods for the trees.
The first thing that must be conceded about Anna Hazare, often portrayed as a simpleton, is that he is a brilliant leader and tactician who knows when and where to strike. An important trait of leadership is to stay focussed on the big picture, and on one or two key points. Hazare has been consistent and clear: he wants a Jan Lokpal bill that would oversee all political, bureaucratic, and judicial authorities. Henry Kissinger had once made a pertinent point: details are for bureaucrats (and analysts, one may add).
Now, one can go on and on about how the PM under the Lokpal is bad for democracy, why the judiciary must be kept out, etc. But those are exactly the details that concern intellectuals and bureaucrats; details that concern the drafting panel and the likes of Sibal and Kejriwal. A leader must never get bogged down with the nitty-gritty. This might sound far-fetched, but Mahatma Gandhi merely gave the call, Quit India; he didn’t worry about the details.
Whether instinctively or otherwise, Hazare understands he must focus on the big picture. This is not a sign of a lack of education (as some claim), it is a sign of leadership.
And if a CM can be in the Lok Ayukta’s ambit (and thank goodness for that, as Karnataka proved), why can’t the PM be in the Lokpal’s?
In contrast, Manmohan Singh has come across as a very poor leader; a man desperate to keep his ‘clean’ image intact even as he kowtows to Congress diktat. He started by saying he’d like the PM under the Lokpal but changed his stance; people have missed this inconsistency.
The other concern, one repeated by the PM ad nauseum and taken up by scores of intellectuals, is that mass movements weaken democracy and that only Parliament (and parliamentarians) must make the laws. The first is a lie: protests do not weaken democracy (it is ironic that so many intellectuals hailed the Arab spring even as they flayed Hazare’s summer!).
Also, how are the people to get their voices heard when politicians turn deaf? Surely they don’t want all of us to pick up the gun, as the Naxalites have done.
Truth is, nature abhors a vacuum. Today, we have a political vacuum, which is why Hazare has become an icon. No one trusts politicians today. We all know that elections only throw up the less corrupt. Take Tamil Nadu: out goes the DMK of the 1.76-lakh-crore scam and in comes Jayalalithaa of the Rs100-crore scam. So what has changed?
In fact, intellectuals should be praising street protests because these protests have told our politicians that beyond elections, we will now hold them accountable. Democracy is strengthened when people take time off to fight for their country. And while one agrees that only Parliament must make the laws, the laws have to be in consonance with the people’s wishes. If tomorrow Parliament decides to abolish elections, would not we, the people, come out and protest? So why are protests being seen negatively?
And so what if the Jan Lokpal bill doesn’t wipe out corruption. Democracy and legislation are ongoing processes. If one bill doesn’t work, we can (and must) introduce another. The fight against corruption is not, and can never be, a one-bill affair.
Anna Hazare needs our — and the intellectuals’ —support because he has shown a willingness to fight to make our politicians accountable to the people.
Written by: Amberish K Diwanji