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Updated: August 7, 2012 04:12 IST

What lies ahead in the annals of Anna

Badri Raina
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RAMLILA TO PARLIAMENT: No political entity can be a single-agenda group and expect to have a political future. File photo
The Hindu RAMLILA TO PARLIAMENT: No political entity can be a single-agenda group and expect to have a political future. File photo

Can the nobility of intention survive the murk and mire of electoral politics?

When the Bastille was stormed in July 1789, a handful of young and very starry-eyed English radicals — Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey — were on hand to witness the happening. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very heaven,” Wordsworth was to recall famously, albeit, dejectedly. Indeed, the other two romantics went so far as to found a ‘Pantisocracy’ briefly on the banks of the river Susquehanna — a sort of Utopia among the ruins.

The trouble, of course, was that where historians were busy analysing the class character of the French Revolution and evaluating its limitations and transformative possibilities for the decades to come — all in an intellectually cold-blooded sort of way — young radicals like the English romantics had, at bottom, very roseate and millennial expectations of that July in Paris. Severely flawed by their ahistoricity of aspiration, it was their great hope that with the fall of the Bastille, a “new heaven and a new earth” (again in Wordsworthian phrase) would be born, ending evils and corruptions at one fell go. The critic M.H. Abrams would later call this aspiration a “secular theodicy.” That grand abstraction was of course to be defeated by the operations of the historical concrete.

Here lies the rub

It may not be too far-fetched to see the Anna phenomenon in a somewhat similar frame of reference. We were asked to believe that one Jan Lokpal legislation of our heart’s desire would put paid to corruption in India for all times to come; and nothing was farther from the Annaites thought than the possibility that — like so many aspects of the French event — this kill-all Lokpal could become in itself a source of even more humongous corruption, leaving only the recourse to theodicy.

Admirable, therefore, is the decision of the Annaites to enter the innards of India’s republican and constitutional democracy, although it must be doubted that they have yet much of an idea of how their conceptual and organisational future might shape. Clearly, entering the parliamentary fray, no political group can be a single-agenda group and expect to have a political future. Therein lies the rub, but one that any aspirant to fruitful intervention in the career of democracy so pluralist and fraught as India’s cannot evade beyond a point. Many a stamina thus will be tested by the murk and mire of democratic processes in contention with the nobility of intention, and the purity of purpose, credible or not, will need to battle contaminations of great conviction and clout.

Among those less sublime but all-too-real convictions has been that of the Hindu right wing — that the Anna “movement” could eventually be fully drafted to bolster the organised politics of parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as was the JP movement in the mid-1970s. The dismay in that camp at the turn of events — vociferously and unambiguously being given voice to by their self-appointed spokesmen — is already both raucous and understandable. After all, it stands to reason that whatever popular support an Annaite party of the future may garner in a town here and there is most likely to come from a support base which the right wing calls its own. Leaving the chief enemy smirking in a very hurtful sort of chuckle.

In the rough and tumble of contentious human intention and effort, no quick-heal anti-virus software has yet been invented that may keep such intention and effort free of taint. And, emphatically not within a political economy which makes of moneymaking the very heart of “progress” and “development.” A reality about which one hears little from the Anna camp.

(Prof. Badri Raina is a Delhi-based writer.)

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Dear Mr. Raina, I think it would surely be beneficial for general class like me should you have:
1. written in small sentences
2. general english for which one does not need to refer the dictionary
3. in simple english.
I am a great admirer of The Hindu and trust no other print for news and opinions. Writings like these are a drawback to many who have not studied ICSE Board.
I hope my comments will not be taken as negative and I intend to take my comments back should you not like them.

from:  Vikas Roorkeewal
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 19:00 IST

Another success of " CORRUPT INDIA INc":
India is huge/diverse and a poor country with gross economic diversity where farmers very happily prefer suicide over any radical anti govt revolution; and govt( of pple) accept their fate. I dont see any progress in eliminating corruption;Problem is where to and how to start staying within 'the system' aka" democracy plus hinduism mandated caste system".
I have cited before JL Nehru's example who had resigned from Allahabad's mayor ship in 1920s saying: my helpers in election are now indulgent in 'bribes/corruption' and i am helpless; With some later wisdom he too changed to CEO of ' corrupted india inc'.
Anna fizzled out because govt 'cannot support him'; Gandhi succeeded with govt's help: A novice gandhi was handed over congress ( 1916?) because of ' lucknow pact' with muslim league--to over throw british during WW1. Cong. was forced to expell the radical lajpat rai,Mohani and Tilak. Gandhi said;' we still need british rule'

from:  Dr abdul jamil khan
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 17:19 IST

It was expected- No offense meant but to fight the system from
outside does not evoke the required stimuli from the masses anymore
in this era - 2 reasons- one the fatalistic attitude of the masses-
the mid strata not enthusing the youth coupled with the fact that
the majority of the masses current energy and enthusiasm levels
are now more directed towards materialistic pursuits or battling
survival levels and the other the powerful irrepressible
politicians who can get away with blue-scot murder ,more atrocious
than the Imperial British who had ruled us.
With Anna stepping in the ring, he must bear only one thing in
mind- he is getting into quicksilver sand and as long he is rooted
strongly, ready to pull out the muck and the dirt from the very
bottom and lay out a new foundation, he shall either die
heartbroken of not able to effect the change or find himself
entrenched in the current system knowingly or unknowingly- A
glimmer of hope after 65 years no doubt but can he do it?

from:  chander rajagopal
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 16:59 IST

Prof Raina appears to be beating around the bush while missing the big picture which is that we Indians, belonging to all religions , regions, castes, sects and various other divisions are now sick of corruption . Most of us feel cheated by the current political parties and Anna appears to be the only hope of getting a better tomorrow. We are least concerned with left or the right wingers- all we know is that these parties are brothers in arms who have this unsaid mutual understanding to let this system perperate where the countries resources are unashamedly being looted while the public has to struggle with bad roads, power shortage, poor law & order, inflation, mindless taxes ( and the list id endless). The political system needs to be cleaned from within and Team Anna enjoys the trust of many Indians to carry out the task. 2014 will show it.And Prof Raina needs to get his facts right before writing in a public platform like Hindu.

from:  Harpreet Singh
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 16:16 IST

What I really dont understand is Anna's attempt to curb corruption bieng clouded by smart minds with worthwhile use of language and tricks to decieve the more smarter middle class who nods the heads for whatever is close to intellectual with supreme vocabulary, please go take a bath in Ganga. There is no second Gandhi and truly thr would never be a second Ralegoan Sidhi - model village made by Anna selflessly where poor live life as it needs to be. Anna with few selfless Magsaysay Award winners(if anyone knows the meaning - search Google) have attempted to curb corruption which was blocked by the Govt which has many many corrupt leaders(h-i-g wid corporate) who do not want to come clean, thats the point. Writing an article with smart vocabulary & misleading middle class wont solve the purpose, god forbid you should not be on the receiving end of corruption in dire straits - it kills and bleeds the poor and middle class. And yes, smart writing will help that further!So go for the Kill.

from:  Sridhar Mayur
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 15:02 IST

Team Anna has raised the conscious level of the middle class India
especially in the urban and B-class town like never before. To cast
aside their contribution as a flash in the pan is a parochial view
which unfortunately is also encouraged by the media which is still
searching for its credibility. Any mass movement of one's own volition
and is voluntary in nature will take time to grew up becoz the very
nature of it i.e mass oriented. So to write off Team Anna on the basis
of some hiccups is childish. The movement is here to say and my view
is that this modern day Satyagraha needs some cooling off period for rejuvenation and will bounce back at the right opportunity.

from:  Raghu
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 13:23 IST

Prof Badri Raina has analyzed the situation pretty well wondering
how a single agenda group can ever form a party to win an
election. Anna's every movement has been stymied by the crafty
party conglomerate in power and he had to give up the Gandhian
policy as unproductive. The situation then, during the Gandhi's
time and now are totally different. Gandhi had the perseverance
and the countrymen had the passion to drive out a foreign yoke;
therefore it worked. The conditions are totally different. It is
the countrymen who are looting the country; to elaborate, the
moral fibre of the country's population, who matter, has
degenerated and each one is corrupt; therefore they elect even
more corrupt men to govern for their own share of 'crumbs'.
Poverty and illiteracy are exploited and the 'aam admi's are
bought over during elections. It is time that Anna and his team
also start a movement bottom upwards to wean away aam admi from
either involving in or encouraging corrupt practices.

from:  M.R.Sampath
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 11:35 IST

Indians don't have any option but to vote dynastic or communal party.
We want strong alternative if democracy is to survive. This change is
must and this can be achieved by vigilant and unbiased media and youth
of this noble country. I urge this esteemed newspaper to support this
cause as time demand it.

from:  atul warhekar
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 11:35 IST

why we are making such in depth analyses, what so complex in simple
person , like Anna ? We should understand that complete struggle is
against Corruption , not against the Govt . we should not feel
abnormal if a citizen a demanding to make a law to stop corruption effectively or make accountable who takes decision in the helm of
affair. This complete struggle is for India , not for Anna.In case
this struggle fizzle out loser would be India , not an
individual.Moreover this is an admitted facts that huge amount
deposited from India in foreign Banks, stolen from Indian People ,
same has been admitted by present CBI Director , also. Why Press is
not asking Govt or putting pressure on Govt to retrace the same and
take action against who have stolen such huge money. These are work
of Press, Electronic Media and Parliamentarians , but unfortunately ,
their coverage indicates that they are conniving with Govt for
protecting thieves.

from:  ranjan sharan
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 10:53 IST

It is very easy to preach from the pulpit, cast aspersions and predict doom and gloom. However, what is the author's contribution to fighting corruption or probably he lives in a glass castle where no corruption exists? What was the need for an old, not so famous man from a nondescript village to start a campaign against corruption? If right wing forces took advantage of it, then it only shows how hopeless left wing politics is in the country. Because, it takes so much of discussion, debate and arm-chair analysis for them to come to any conclusion and unity about anything. If the author thinks Anna and his group believed Lok Pal to be a magic pill against corruption, then it is his limitation of understanding of the campaign. There is something called tactic and strategy in any political campaign and if you apply those rules here you will see merit in starting with a one-point agenda like the Jan Lok Pal. As a lay person, I found it to be an excellent way to talk about change.

from:  Rajnish
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 09:31 IST


Anna Hazare is welcome to the mainsteam political arena for the simple reason that his directionless movement would lead him nowhere.With thousands of flaws democratic movements have become strong weapons against all sorts of governance defficiencies ,corruption and other social & political ills that presently afflicts the Indian Nation..Anna should have seen that the kind of movement he launched was waste of time and energy.Before launching a political party he should cleanse his stable first or else it would be like most other political parties that exists in India of to-day.

from:  Anil Kumar Choudhury
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 08:04 IST

Arvind Kejriwal, the main reason the movement exists, is representative of just one thing in society - impatience.
It doesn't matter if this is good or bad. Justified or unjustified. What matters is, that it exists.
The impatience of the younger generations in the country will continue to rise. Especially the urban youth. With unprecedented access to information and having been raised in an environment of instant gratification, expectations will not be controllable or realistic.Our feckless political leadership by ignoring it, is just going to make the situation worse. They have to try to address it. Now.
If they don't, all we have to do, is wait for the next round of mega scams or the next set of radia tapes for the fuse to be light.

from:  Gopi
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 07:18 IST

Ever since the fast was called off, the Indian media, particularly the
highly biased (sponsored?) internet and TV media, has gone into
overdrive (a) ridiculing the wisdom of proposing Jan Lokpal (arguing
corruption is the joining fee of economic development!), (b)
questioning the ability of IAC to form a political party or make a
success of it (when no definite decision to form a party announced
yet!), (c) speculating on the impact the new party will have on
existing parties (none to strengthening the ruling parties; none to
splitting the vote of the BJP; why, when no party championed Lokpal?).
Growing numbers of Indians, worried about their children/ grandchildren’s future, ask: can democracy, good governance (accountability, transparency, rule of law) be re-established, so that there can be sustained economic development, benefitting everyone not just a privileged few? If so, how, when citizens are effectively disenfranchised, and for 65 yrs matters have gone from bad to worse?

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 05:32 IST

Looks like an innocuous way to spread misinformation is to include in
the background leading up to the main argument (if there is one). So,
prof. Raina sneaks in the following: "We were asked to believe that one
Jan Lokpal legislation .. would put paid to corruption in India for all
times to come; (and not consider) the possibility that .. this kill-all
Lokpal could become in itself a source of even more humongous
corruption.."
Now, I have been following the movement rather closely and haven't heard these claims. Either I have been sleeping or Prof. Raina has been dreaming.
First, there is no one magic bullet to end corruption but Lokpal bill would go a long way to accomplish that. (Going by the resistance of the corrupt polity, it's a very credible threat to them.) Secondly, the possibility of corruption in the Lokpal institution doesn't take a genius to envision. The Jan Lokpal bill puts in several safety mechanisms to prevent exactly that possibility.

from:  K Palaka
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 04:46 IST

I believe that Team Anna is left with very few options apart from pondering about instigation of a new political party. They have been vociferously protesting against corruption and shown a strong resilience against myriad problems faced on the path of getting a strong Lokpal bill implemented since the past one year, but, whatever the reasons maybe,(the means to accomplish the bill's passing or making crude remarks on other politicians), the movement has lost a considerable amount of steam and with that, the interest of a majority of Indian citizen. So, one definite pro of Team Anna's political party could be speedy implementation of the anti-corruption bill as well as added competitive pressure on political parties to bring in more efficiency. Funding for Anna's political party as well as leadership would be major issues which would require detailed planning.

from:  Priyank
Posted on: Aug 7, 2012 at 04:21 IST
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