The Rajya Sabha debate or rather the debacle last week was termed as a "devious dance of deception", "match-fixing of the worst kind", "murder at midnight" and "death of democracy" by many bitter politicians and commentators.
Seething with anger at what was clearly political manipulation of Parliamentary proceedings, our MPs puffed into television microphones pithy and ominous sound bites, delivering obituaries of democratic traditions and parliamentary norms.
It was past midnight and we were past caring. The Rajya Sabha debate was just another TV reality show for most middle class Indians who applauded thundering speeches and sniggered at awkwardly delivered ones.
Farcical: The Rajya Sabha debate was just another TV reality show
for most middle class Indians who applauded thundering speeches
and sniggered at awkwardly delivered ones.
So much has been said and debated on the Lokpal non-Bill that a series of cathartic events has left people exhausted and purged. Excessive passions generated in the last few months by Team Anna have left television-viewing middle class Indians drained of any emotion, to attach to this movement.
Public policy issues that should have been clinically debated had become town house tamashas, replete with Bollywood music, poetry sessions, and flag-waving, floppy-cap- wearing events. And all that hype was bound to peter out. People had to go back to jobs, examinations, deadlines and housework. The middle class has very short attention spans. And this was a middle class movement.
The signs were visible even before Anna went on his third fast last weekfor the Lok Pal Bill. The novelty factor was over. The Biblical imagery wasdead. Anna was no Moses, no sea would part to make way for the magic bill that would end all corruption and make India the Promised Land. Right Thought need not necessarily lead to right action. Doubts emerged that the Right Action might not be the Lokpal Bill even though there was a broad consensus that the Right Thought was to end corruption.
If in a Parliamentary system of democracy, a bill does not muster support, then it is not what the people want. There is no other way to know what 'We the People Want'. We don't vote on issues, we vote on MPs once in five years. There is no room for plebiscite in India. Issues change from time to time. Lokpal today; may be AFSPA tomorrow or Article 370. Our elected representatives decide for us in our Parliament and we elect them in good faith. Just because one section of the population thinks that their version of the Lok Pal Bill is "what India needs" does not make it necessary for Parliament to pass the Bill in a hurry, in a manner that suits a section of a vocal group.
TRP-driven reports and circulation driven editors presumed that activists who were on television channels 24/7, spewing venom against political parties, reflected people's anger and desire for change. After all there must have been some reason why several thousands came out on the streets in New Delhi with a candle in hand and a chant of mera neta chor hai. Wrong.
It was just news-induced catharsis. What began with the 2G and CWG scams got purged with those rallies in the fall of 2011. The message was delivered to the government: We have vented anger. You have had your warning. People are angry with corruption, get your act together, and punish the wrongdoers, else you will pay the price in the next elections. Anna was just a microphone to make that noise loud and obvious. Nobody will vote for Team Anna in an election. Even Team Anna knows that.
In India, we know and have experienced that change does not happen suddenly. Not even good change. We wait for failing cricketers to announce retirement rather than firing them. We wait for thousands of farmers to commit suicide, we wait for industries to go bust, and we wait for students to hang or burn themselves. And then a mad scramble to dole out sops. Patch and repair rather than prevent mishaps.
Malaise seems endemic to our way of things but making laws filled with loopholes would be just another band-aid. Why not leave it to lawmakers to decide? And if they don't do it, deliver the blow in the elections that are just five months away. That, is the civilised and democratic way of getting things done. Outrage invariably peters out.
Smita Prakash is Editor (News) at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash