Power Dynamics of the JanLokpal Andolan

In the previous article, I have outlined some dynamics of power. Those are universal. They help us understand the JanLokpal agitation and how it is unfolding. Whether you call this troubleshooting, or you call it a strategy map depends on which side of the fence you are.

These observations are of the dynamics – they have no intent other than to describe the flows of power on an overall scale.

If you have not read the post about the dynamics of power, this article may not make sense to you at all, unless you have skills of understanding power dynamics. So I suggest that you read it.

Without further ado… here is the narrative of the movement in terms of power.

Conditions

The conditions at the time of the emergence of the JanLokpal andolan were ripe for the existing powerful enitity to be challenged. If you look at the examples of reasons why a change is seeked, you will see that all those and more were present in the situation. People were frustrated and angry and wanted to challenge the power of the government. But they also lacked power individually. That was a lot of motivation without outlet.

The birth

Some individuals with initiative made a determined, well organized attempt to challenge the power of the government by coming together as IAC and strategizing meticulously in order to have enough power to cause a shift in the power structure of the country. (this is a staple of all civil uprisings)

The growth

While IAC made sustained, determined and highly efficiently designed efforts to grow in power, the vast number of people frustrated with the government found a stronger entity to support to achieve a larger goal.

Mistakes by the government

  • In acknowledging the IAC, the government gave it power – this was inevitable because the magnitude of the IAC challenge made communication a must. This is also an advantage of hunger strikes – by forcing a time limit for a response before stakes became unacceptably high, the government essentially ran out of time to regain its power.
  • By attacking the IAC before addressing any of the conditions toward a better advantage, the government gave it power by magnifying the conflict. The more attention it caught, the more support it got, because this simply wasn’t the government’s pitch and it failed to recognize that.
  • In response to the challenge, the government counted solely on its institutional power prevailing and became rigid to defend it. It did not take several opportunities where small concessions in institutional power would bring them significant situational power, choosing to attempt to disempower the opponent rather than risk any loss of power in a bid for increasing power.
  • It made several attempts with red herrings which got exposed and further disempowered the government.
  • It failed to understand what was happening and use the interval between protests to create more favorable ground.
  • It over estimated its institutional power and made no effort to develop situational advantages.
  • It squandered the advantage of institutional power for using it for creating red herrings, which was correctly recognized by citizens as an attack on their interests and rejected, resulting in disempowering of the government in relation with IAC

The challenge and victory

The IAC successfully consolidated all the power received from the people and informally institutionalized it as the “civil society”. This added tremendous endurance to their challenge.

The sheer number of people coming together made IAC powerful enough to challenge the government and force it to compromise for survival. This is a victory. That battle was won at this point with the creation of the Joint Committee.

The resistance and counter challenge

While the government lost the battle in terms of operational power, it has institutional power which requires no energy to sustain. This power is drawn from the support of every person in the country through elections leading to its formation. No matter how many people rise up in challenge, very little dissent is required against them to overpower them because they cannot exceed the population of the country.

It has an advantage of being able to out endure challenges far more easily than one without that. The IAC with its excellent organization came very close to out powering that as well, and it would have in an out and out battle, but the government naturally used the advantage it had by drawing out the battle at very little cost to itself. It also made several and sustained efforts to undermine the power of the IAC which worked well.

I insert here a comment: It is not ill intent toward the country which causes this resistance. Any power challenged will resist. It is the nature of power. No matter how big or small.

Mistakes by IAC

After the initial victory, the IAC made several critical mistakes.

  • Their biggest one was shifting their power from the entity it had institutionalized it under to individuals. A system is far more difficult to overpower than individuals.
  • This backfired, because the red herring attacks by the government started hitting the power of the movement itself because the people had been turned into symbols. Make no mistake, the government has made personal attacks as distraction mechanisms all through. They had no impact on the movement till the people started becoming symbols of the movement.
  • Possibly this was done as a protection to the leaders of the movement who were under severe and sustained personal attacks. However, it divided the power being received and made it far less stable. Massive support became less visible.
  • You also notice this in the fact that among people around you, you will find very few who have changed their minds about the JanLokpal. What has changed is the ability to consolidate support.
  • Another reason, not related with the nature of power, but became a big disadvantage is supporting people runs instinctively counter to an objective of creating an independent authority not influenced by people. Therefore, the conversations of the IAC became increasingly tangled in futle, unconvincing explanations and attention was lost from supporting the primary objective to defending individuals, intentions, logic, credibility, etc based on subjective arguments… this dispersed available power over such a large area that it is becoming rapidly unsustainable.

I would like to note here that supporters of the IAC call the attacks against their leadership as the evil designs of the government, but I see it is an unethical but prevalent practice in our country and indeed in the world. The IAC has also made personal attacks on members of the government.

Would not like to comment on immediate situation because it is still fluid, but here are tips for both the IAC and government.

For IAC to win

It needs to move back as fast as possible to institutionalizing its power and leaving defense of personal attacks to individuals – no matter who.

It needs to stop adding agendas that disperse and over reach its power like election campaigns and other things. Opening more fronts of attack may seem like a temporary victory, but the government has no problem with that at all, while sustaining it will be an active effort for IAC – that way lies exhaustion. Better consolidate all power first to achieve JanLokpal before moving on to other obectives.

Citizens are smart enough to vote for whoever they choose – they most certainly know about the corrupt congress, etc and have an active interest in selecting non-corrupt people. That is a large investment of effort to achieve something that would happen anyway.

For the government to win

An institutional power is not effective against citizens at large for a very long time. It is important to get situational power by getting support and “buy ins” by the people. (no, this isn’t about bribing, but convincing). A good way would be to take up a pressing concern and make an absolutely open and unhesitating stand to fix it.

Changing the nature of attacks to more ethical ones in terms of debating the utility of the JanLokpal or whatever, but moving off from personal attacks will create a massive moral advantage. It will mean learning a whole new way of counter argument.

 

I would like to say here, any victory is likely to be temporary. A more lasting solution would be in reaching mature compromises, but the chances for that seem low on both sides currently.

Yeah, that’s about it. What I see in this situation without pushing my own agendas (which I have done plenty of already 😀 )

Thank you for reading.

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About the Author

Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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