Sunday, August 28, 2011

India wins

After 13 days of fasting finally our dear Annaji broke his fast on national television at the Ramlila grounds. Let us now look back at the phenomenon called Anna and attempt to analyze from where it has come and what is its future trajectory.
The man seems to be a rustic villager, simple looking but complex personality who from all accounts seems to have a big ego. He claims to be destiny's child as he considered his escape from the jaws of death, a call to a higher calling in life. The man dedicated his life to rural upliftment of his bretheren and by all accounts Ralegan Siddhi became a model of rural development based on watershed development and social reform. All this was done by Anna in a manner an army man would adopt, a combination of coercion and persuasion more of the former than the latter. His work and his spartan life style won him admiration and acclaim in Maharashtra, India and abroad resulting him getting the Magsaysay award, an asian equivalent of the Nobel prize. His work made him engage with the political class and he like his inspiration Gandhi cut his teeth in agitation politics at the lower levels before taking the might of the Indian state. While self sacrifice and fasting as a symbol of the same was typically his method of protest, he has to the surprise of seasoned politicians mastered the art of symbolism, public speaking and tactical timing and in this he has faithfully emulated Gandhi. His choice of issue was corruption which has peaked in the last few years and has become so brazen, that the people came to a point where they felt "enough is enough", helped him to connect instantly with the masses. However, nothing succeeds without luck and Anna's luck came in the form of a Government run by a bunch of technocrats and lawyers, who knew the rules of law but were not the spirit in which they were framed. They engaged Anna's team in drafting, but only tried their level best to undermine them and discredit them. When they seemed to partially succeed they made the crucial mistake of arresting Anna, on August16 and made him a hero and converted the fence sitters to become his supporters. Coupled with that the opposition was in position to jump on to his bandwagon as they were a discredited lot too. The icing on the cake came in the form of media exposure, which was truly unprecedented. Anna played to the gallery and made his movement a reality show surpassing any event including the cricket world cup. In fact, Dhoni and his boys must thank Anna for diverting the peoples attention from their disastrous showing in England.

On the flip side, Anna's methods, show disturbing trends too. His arrogance, intemperate language, tendency to abuse like in public and dictatorial attitude are not the qualities of his mentor Gandhi. While Anna is not personally corrupt, notwithstanding a ten year old report indicting him of some minor blemishes in NGO account, he is power hungry and wants the attention to himself. Dictating to Parliament, Prime Minister and intolerance of other views are qualities which can destroy him and his movement. While I accept that in the heat of an agitation maximalistic positions are taken as tactical ploys, by both sides, I felt that both sides crossed the limit on more than one occasion. However, better sense seems to have prevailed, the movement remained at least physically non-violent. To my mind, the verbal assaults, by both parties prevent me from calling this a pure non-violent agitation.

On the elected establishment side, parliament acted, finally to accede to some of Anna's demands with some grace, notwithstanding a few MP's who are still riding the high horse, they did so only under the sheer weight and force of public opinion. The realization that they were disconnected from their constituents and ran the danger of becoming irrelevant, made them speak in favor of Anna's demands.

What is the future? Our PM and government must learn that they cannot run a nation state which benefits the top 10% and ignores 90% of the population. A government which cares only for GDP, sensex and market parameters has been told that India cannot become a superpower, if it ignores Bharat. Corporate India, has directly benefited by their cosy relation and collusion with our shameless netas and babus. This movement must take on other issues like electoral reforms, land reforms, unorganized labor issues, health care, education, and many others and we must become a participatory democracy with the village Panchayats and local bodies getting the place Gandhi dreamt of in independent India. But, Anna must shed his arrogance, refine his approach and finally create a political platform where a person of modest means, who is not dynastically connected and who is neither communal or casteist, but who wants to work for people can get elected.

I end my blog by invoking the blessings of the supreme power above through this prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Vispi Jokhi

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