Monday, 29 August 2011

Democracy and Corruption

M C Raj

Indian democracy is going through turmoil at the moment. There is a hype created about corruption in the country. Young people have come on to the streets in an apparent bid to save India from corruption. The government of India has shown visible signs of panic and makes apparent mistakes in its strategy to contain the hype around corruptions. There is a need to understand a few dimensions surrounding the fight against corruption in India.

It may look that there was no such corruption earlier in India. Such uniqueness to the present struggle against corruption has been created mainly because of the personalities who are spearheading the present battle in the streets. The ‘General’ is known to be a Gandhian and that lends a lot of credibility to the struggle. Ultimately one may witness in many corners of India a strenuous effort to project Hazare as the new messiah who will save India from corruption. There is a danger in this personalization that the issue of corruption may easily be pushed to periphery and Hazare will be pushed to the centre-stage. Around Hazare there are some inevitable others who are always present at any publicity -galvanizing event in India. Why did Hazare arise in the horizon capitalizing on the issue of corruption? We shall not go back into his personal history, as we have no intention to personalize any struggle.

Indian leaders in general are very wary of highlighting any issues that will capture negative international attention. For example Indian rulers of all parties have tried their best to prevent any international media attention to the issues of untouchability and caste inequality. Yet the issue of corruption has been allowed to be blown up at a time when India is gaining an image of Asian economic giant and even being a donor country. There must be a purpose behind this attempt to put India on bad spot.  The timing is a strong indication. Already in the period of India Gandhi corruption became a serious issue and she sealed the issue by proclaiming that corruption was a universal phenomenon. From then on India has never run short of corrupt practices.

The recent proceedings in the parliament of India have repeatedly shown that there is a strong effort to put governance by Congress in a bad spot. The BJP has been stalling the parliament proceedings through undue pressure tactics and has taken recourse to also personal vilification of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. Without going into the merits and de-merits of BJP effort to disrupt parliament functioning, one may conclude that the present effort is part of a continuum and not a suddenly spruced up issue. This time around the effort has been to make the government make as many mistakes as possible and withdraw from governance so that the old BJP regime may re-capture power. Politics is about capturing power.

Sushma Swaraj speaking in the parliament in defence of RSS support to Hazare is a strong indicator of background players in the present orchestration. ABVP, the student wing of RSS/BJP has vandalized Christian educational institutions in seeking support for Hazare. In many places of India Muslims and Christians have been targeted in public speeches as if they do not belong to India. It is also very difficult to accept that Hazare praised Narendra Modi of Gujarat accidentally focusing only on the development model. The hurry and the spontaneity in such adulation of a highly questionable Chief Minister of Gujarat is a very strong indicator to a certain loyalty and behind the scene motivation for the crusade against corruption. That putting the UPA government on a spot is an international agenda of the BJP/RSS brigade does not need much explanation.

The dialectics of anti-corruption has received a severe body blow by the proposition of a Jan Lokpal Bill. Even many opposition parties in India have decried the weakness of the UPA government in yielding to such pressure tactics by Hazare to outsmart the parliament of India by going on a fast unto death in order to push his personal agenda of an ombudsman outside of parliament. This effort has to be placed in the larger context of the country where Hindutva forces have resentment about the present constitution. They would rather govern the country outside of the constitution through Hindu Scriptures, if possible, or through revision of the constitution. The caste governance of villages where legally elected Dalit Presidents and members of Panchayats are attacked and brutally killed bears ample evidence to the existing violent resentment against the inclusive nature of Indian constitution. The way provisions for reserved seats have been subverted by all political parties in India from the time of Independence is an additional evidence of the endeavour to subvert the spirit of the constitution. Jan Lokpal will fit perfectly into such a trajectory. The opposition parties in India could have easily taken up the issue in the parliament and fought tooth and nail within the parliament for including the office of the Prime Minister and judges in the government approved Lokpal Bill.   It is prudish on the part of Hazare to burn the Bill prepared by the Government even before it was taken up for discussion in the Parliament. A supposedly immature India seems to have blindly followed someone who either cares a damn for the parliament of India or is guided by a highly moralistic arrogance. It leaves conscientious citizens of India with a bitter question as to how much of pro-India content is visible in the present street battle led by Hazare & Co.

Many intellectuals and writers who initially supported Hazare in the first phase of his struggle wrote a strong letter disapproving his statements and methods of protest. There is substance in this symbolic protest of the intelligentsia in India. It clearly indicates that while they are against corruption they do not approve of an engineered struggle against corruption, especially if the engineering is done by proven communal elements in the country.

Any pro-India agenda focusing on non-corrupt governance has many other concerns to address instead of trying to catch it by the tail and turn it around to change its direction. The issue of corruption is one of the many issues that concern governance of the country with the value premises enshrined in the constitution of India. Communalism has been a terrible form of onslaught against constitutional governance in India from the time of Ram Janma Bhoomi Movement violently led by Advani and his cronies. Treatment of Dalits as untouchables all over the country and atrocities perpetrated on them when they take recourse to constitutional and legal provisions must put to shame any party that imagines to govern this country through its constitution. The way Congress party has blindly taken recourse to Globalization, deprivation of the poor of their natural resources in the name of development is much more serious than the issue of corruption. The way India is bulldozing her small neighbours in Asia and is implicitly colonizing many African countries needs a serious analysis and positioning by Indian intelligentsia. The way subsequent governments in India have browbeaten UN mechanisms is a matter of grave concern in Indian governance. Electoral malpractices and violence are serious issues of governance that deserve immediate attention. Our electoral system itself is a legacy that India has borrowed from the British. While most countries in the world are shifting their electoral systems to one or other form of proportional representation system, India is still blindly holding on to the First Past The Post system. This is highly indicative of a callousness that exists in those who are responsible for governance. Many countries in the world have tackled the issue of corruption by changing their electoral system and by refurbishing their instruments and mechanisms of governance.

That such a serious issues in governance in India have been relegated to peripheries and that just one issue of corruption has been taken up as the most damaging issue in Indian democracy is a strong indicator of the existence of a hidden agenda behind this hype. Whose agenda are the citizens and young people of India are fulfilling is a serious question. Are they taking the bull by the horn or by the tail? Only time will tell. But by then there may be another generation of India that could be trampled upon. Let us hope that this will not happen and that good sense will prevail.   

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