The murkier side of Lokpal politics
There is a sad sense of inevitability about the way the India Against Corruption movement is being played out.
What started as a groundswell of support from the Indian public, fed up of corruption in daily life and at the grand level, has now become one more murky political game. Let us assume that Anna Hazare's intentions in focusing on corruption are unimpeachable. But members of Team Anna are not all cut from the same cloth.
Whatever their intentions, their refusal to allow any other point of view when it comes to an authority to control government corruption made them suspect.
Even if the government and the Congress party are total villains, it still doesn't change the fact that almost the entire political spectrum in this country is an integral part of keeping corruption alive. The BJP was caught in a corruption bind in Karnataka, where Team Anna member Santosh Hegde outed the chief minister and the BJP refused to acknowledge this for as long as possible. Yet, there is no anger spewed on TV against the BJP by Team Anna; rather, glee at a letter supporting the Jan Lokpal Bill from its president Nitin Gadkari.
Most of the anger of the people -- barring the unbelievable amounts involved in the 2G and Commonwealth Games scams -- is about local level corruption. The Jan Lokpal Bill does not adequately explain how this can be combated, curbed, or controlled. The "sense of Parliament" which led to Team Anna suspending their agitation until the next Parliament session was an assurance that "a" Lokpal bill would be discussed; not that their Jan Lokpal Bill would be passed.
And now we have Team Anna asking people not to vote for the Congress in the Hissar bypoll because the party did not support the Jan Lokpal Bill -- this from a group that has time and again reiterated that it was not a political organisation. In spite of several rumours and some evidence that the RSS had backed and supported its August campaign at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, Team Anna denied it. But the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat has declared that his organisation supported the agitation. Team Anna's response was to dissemble:
O, anyone is free to be anti-corruption, O we are against the communal nature of the RSS but as long as they are anti-corruption we don't mind their support -- what do these excuses mean?
The India Against Corruption movement is well within its rights to become part of the RSS or any other "social" or "political" organisation. However, it is only fair that it makes its allegiances clear to the people of this country on whose behalf it claims to speak. Even better, it wins the right to speak for us by winning an election.
Instead, we have the amusing -- if dangerous -- spectacle of members of Team Anna proudly declaring that they have a letter from the Indian National Lok Dal in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill, forgetting perhaps the decades-old corruption charges against the Chautala family. How does Team Anna assure us the people that INLD and the Chautalas have now become squeaky clean?
Self-righteousness, unfortunately, often goes hand in hand with naivete. What we have here is a movement which started on the right note but now seems so caught up in its single-mindedness and lack of political thought that it ignores reality and the writing on the wall. The saying goes that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
For the sake of the larger fight against corruption, one can only hope that the tantrums and gimmicks of Team Anna and the way it is being manipulated by political groups, will not derail the Lokpal process once again.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist