I began with full hearted support for the Jan Lokpal movement. Somewhere down the line, as the politics deteriorated from a people’s movement to a movement led by individuals, I lost interest. I was also turned off by equally dirty blackmail tactics from IAC.
Later, as the government played its very predictable hand of sabotage and delay, I stopped supporting it completely, because I think the IAC went wrong.
In my eyes, the IAC had a responsibility of upholding the trust the people had invested in it. This also means delivering results. By the time the JAC failed, it was beyond evident that the government had no intention of allowing itself to be monitored by a Lokpal. Even if one were made, it would be toothless. IF one were made.
I think, this was the point where the IAC lost its advantage in grandstanding. It had the attention of the country, political parties were speaking up in support, non political organizations were speaking in support, religious organizations, corporate organizations…. they were strong.
Instead of using this strength to evaluate their situation and rapidly move toward consolidating the Lokpal – by whatever way, including influencing unseating the government and negotiating with a more favorable new one – it chose to make grand gestures.
It took the government at its word – after it had been already broken. It stuck toward a massive power play of forcing an elected government toward signing its own death warrant. The most polite word to describe this is unrealistic. I am not even saying unconstitutional, because for it to be unconstitutional, it has to exist.
In another article, I have described that the inherent power of its constitutional role makes an elected government virtually indestructible in a long drawn battle for power. While the challenger has to have massive quantities of power, all the government has to do to win is waste time. There was no way this would work beyond the initial surprise phase, which was squandered in patronizing the government rather than pursuing the goal.
We see the government doing the survival thing at the cost of the country’s agenda. Important bills are getting ignored while the parliament is merrily adjourned, extra-curricular adventures in censorship are attempted (which failed to waste much time), another controversial bill is rammed down the country’s collective throat, and such things.
On the other hand, the Lokpal bill is further weakened to the extent that it will never be agreed on, it introduces an extremely controversial subject of minorities and is highly unlikely to be passed by the Supreme Court. Even if by some miracle, all this got sorted out in time, it would sit hatching eggs, because what needs to be passed first is a Constitutional Amendment bill, which needs the majority of 2/3 of the Parliament. It too is designed in a way that will result in differences of opinion and is near impossible to be passed with a 2/3rd majority.
In other words, fast or lose, the Lokpal Bill has been successfully flatlined – regardless of what happens with the fast beginning tomorrow. It has been properly tangled in processes and dependencies so that it will not happen and there is absolutely no need for anyone to play bad guy. The government cannot be proved wrong if the process takes the time it does. Pressuring a parliament for not being able to agree is so not going to wash in a constitutional democracy.
In the meanwhile, vital debate on the Food Bill is distracted. No clue what’s up with the Beyond crucial Whistleblowers bill (another bill that isn’t of much interest to power mis-brokers).
There is YET another back up plan. There is a multi-pronged war against freedom of speech on the internet in the name of religious or communally offensive content. The government already has powers to remove content claimed of being inflamatory on complaint alone – valid or not. It is going a step further to try to force social media to censor content. When Kapil Sibal did his famous stunt and earned much outrage, it didn’t end, it has shifted to courts, where a journalist has very conveniently filed a complaint to ban offensive content that has resulted in summons to 19 social media organizations.
Establishing this kind of control will be a big tool to dampen matters when the LokPal Bill is not passed. IF it comes to that.
What should they have done? Focused on creating conditions based on reading the government’s intent – which was kind of blatant, and they did read it. It is beyond irresponsibility as the leadership of a movement to watch it being sabotaged and tell the media clearly when and how it is being sabotaged, but do nothing beyond telling government to not sabotage it.
At that time, they should have engaged with opposition and other parties, done the revolution thing, brought down government, and made their Lokpal with a new and favorable government – which wouldn’t be thrilled about it either, but at least it wouldn’t be fighting for survival.
Or they could have gone the Subramanian Swamy route – legally file cases and prove guilt of enough people to either bring the government down, or force better standards.
Or, they should have settled for a compromise on the Lokpal Bill, got a Lokpal in existence so that its value could be understood, as well as the needs handicapping it and agitated again to strengthen it as needed based on functioning data.
I don’t think perfection exists. The path to Nirvana is in continuous improvement.
This stalemate has got an old man with viral fever fasting in the cold for a bill already sabotaged unless an exceptional response is had for the agitation, which isn’t looking very likely at this minute. The demand is still for a government which is in a far better position now than when it agreed to the JPC to create a bill intended to target it as an enemy of the state.
Why do I not support? Because I don’t like pissing contests – ever. No matter between whom. I think they are a lose lose proposition. I don’t feel all excited to hear the same old stories about government intent, and I don’t like anyone telling me what to think. Kejriwal and Bedi included. So I am not interested.
At the same time, I respect the epic effort this is, and the unprecedented stand made by the common man in support. If anything deserves to win, this is it. If the IAC wins and we do get a Lokpal, I will definitely cheer.
PS: I think fears of an autonomous Lokpal being a dangerous thing are highly over rated, but that is another post.