Anna Hazare’s fast-unto-death which has caused a mass movement across the country has raised many questions about the democracy that we practice and the political system existing in India. While there is no doubt in the minds of majority of Indians about the genuineness of the cause for which the septuagenarian is leading the fight, the way in which the whole issue has been handled by Anna and his Team has been a classic case of “Misunderstood Democracy”.
The manner in which the Government and the political parties reacted to these protests has also motivated the people to take to the street in support of Anna. The condemnable act of personal attack on the integrity of Anna by Congress Spokesperson could be termed only as immature and has greatly revealed the failure of the ruling party in understanding the mood among population of India. The Congress led UPA Government committed the first mistake when they formed a body to make the draft of the bill by just including members of Civil Society and the politicians. It should be remembered that not all Indians are supporting the Civil Society and therefore more eminent and acceptable personalities should have been included in the committee. The BJP, which is the main opposition party, instead of carrying out the role of a constructive and responsible opposition, played their cards to reap political benefits from the popular sentiment. They somehow failed to understand that this popular sentiment is against the corrupt political system of which they too are a part.
Anna Hazare’s fast-unto-death is a clear instance of misunderstood democracy. Any comparison of this act with the nonviolent freedom struggle of Mahatma Gandhi is unfair as the freedom struggle was against an imperial and undemocratic rule whereas the so called second freedom struggle led by Anna is against a democratic rule.
In a Democracy there are several channels to express grievance legitimately. We, the people of India, have elected the Government and expect our elected representatives to do their job. If they fail, we have the opportunity to discard him or his party in the next elections. The only limitation of the system is that we have to choose the better among the choices available. This limitation coupled with our wrong choices has often led to the election of wrong individuals to be our representatives. There is no doubt that we will be able to overcome this limitation if we can display the same amount of activism which is being displayed by us on streets to support Anna today, at the time of elections.
This protest would have been much better had Anna and his team treated the Government with respect. Anna’s attitude of “My Way or Highway” by forcing the government to implement the Lokpal Bill as coined by him is nothing less than autocracy. The emotional support being extended by millions of Indians to the protest led by Anna is mainly due to the impact of scams unearthed in recent times and the volume of corruption involved in it. It is on this strength that Anna is up against the government.
Every arm of democracy must become stronger if India has to confront corruption. Our politicians and MPs must be forced to practice effective democratic practice and constructive politics. Another sign of democratic decay and a reason why corruption can spread so malignantly through our national system is a fast weakening accountability of public officials and politicians. Accountability is one of the twin pillars, along with transparency, that uphold good governance. With a free press and a Right to Information Act available for use by the ordinary citizen, transparency is not all that bad in our system even as bureaucratic opacity continues to hinder openness. But accountability degenerates by the day. These are some areas that must get fierce attention from the expanding and increasingly assertive urban middle class if real reform is to happen.