WHY THE POLITICAL EXPERIMENT CALLED AAP FAILED? – THE LEGACY OF THE STRUCTURAL FLAW OF THE ANTI-CORRUPTION MOVEMENT OF 2011

With the drama that culminated in yesterday’s events at the Aam Aadmi Party’s National Council meet where Arvind Kejriwal was officially crowned as the larger than life king of the party, the thought, if there was any behind the move to transition to a political alternative from an activism background, was also officially buried.

And it can be traced back to the core elements that led to failure of the anti-corruption movement of 2011. The movement was led by Anna Hazare. He was the face of it. Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Yogendra Yadav, Santosh Hegde, Medha Patkar and many others were its active soldiers.

And Arvind Kejriwal was its main strategist. His strategy worked very well when it got the mass appeal of Anna Hazare. But after the brilliant success of April and August legs of the movement in 2011, the slide began.

The December 2011 fast by Anna Hazare in Mumbai was a debacle. Similar was the fate of others that followed.

That leads us to think that the movement was poorly strategized (or was deliberately done so) as when it came to build further on the mass appeal and the localized initial spurt, there were no serious headways. The basic need was the faces beyond the localized pockets in several regions of the country.

But faces didn’t come. Instead, those who had built it, started leaving the movement due to internal differences and ideological rifts. Those who were there tried to maintain their eminence.

The movement ultimately failed due to its structural flaws.

It can be seen in social media response. The traditional media came subsequently. There were many flip-flops on the commitment to the core issue of ‘corruption’. Add to it the personal bickering among the group members and display of personal agenda in the public and we had a perfect recipe for disaster. That too, reflected in the social media trends.

Anna Hazare, the old Team Anna, the new Team Anna and the members of Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Aam Aadmi Party’, all were in the news throughout 2012 for different reasons. The common thread among them was they were consistently talking about ‘change’ and the ‘politics of change’. Yet, they didn’t stir the imagination of the youth. The social media was almost not talking about them (except the routine stuff and the existing support base).

Anna Hazare was the major factor that led the youth to trust and accept the call. But once it was clear that the movement was hijacked by the vested interests, they simply moved away from it. The vigourous activity on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media platforms that was there during the April 2011 and September 2011 fasts had flattened later on.

The goodwill eroded – The Team Anna that gave us the AAP had much of the blame to share. Consistent flurry of controversies after August 28, 2011 especially with members like Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Bhushan duo corroded much of the goodwill.

Dislocated functionality – Good names like Rajinder Singh, PV Rajagopal left. Others aired their displeasure about functioning of the ‘core committee’. ‘India Against Corruption’ happened to be a 21-member effort but we were listening to and hearing none but these four-five faces. No replacements came. No fresh faced joined the movement. It had been an area of utter failure that Team Anna created itself.

Empty words – Sometimes impregnated with political overtures like expanding the ‘core committee’ with multilayered structure giving representation to all sections of society like Dalits, Muslims – such promises were made multiple times but nothing happened except confrontation and war of words with the government and its representatives as well as the intensifying internal differences of Team Anna.

Ethically wrong – Campaigning in Hisar was a historical mistake for this anti-corruption movement. When the movement was all about anti-corruption, taking partisan steps even remotely linked to helping someone with questioned credentials win should not have been practiced. Kiran Bedi’s defence of her inflated bills controversy was just absurd. In yet another disappointing move, Anna, more or less, justified his ‘Pawar’s just one-slap’ statement when he blogged about it. Here a Gandhian said that he, apart from Gandhi, believed in Chhatrapati Shivaji, too. So slapping Pawar, according to him, was akin to following values propagated by Shivaji. Smelt of Thackerays! Flatly, just not acceptable!

Unfocused – The much-hyped but left into the oblivion Uttar Pradesh tour was a classical example of resource spoilage. Not much was heard when it came to the summative evaluation of the tour. Days were wasted. Public money was wasted (the tour was funded by money donated by likes of ‘you and me’ during the anti-corruption agitation in Delhi). The anti-corruption movement was not restructured or reoriented for the next step to add more people with it. Instead, big ticket empty announcements like electoral reforms, education reforms, group expansion, anti-government campaigning in the upcoming elections were made again and again.

And similar trajectory can be traced in beginning and the journey so far of the AAP.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

KIRAN BEDI FORMALLY JOINS BJP: ANNA HAZARE IS MENTIONED IN SATIRICAL AND HUMOROUS COMMENTS – IRONY OF A MOVEMENT

Though it was long dead already, and what happened today was to happen sooner or later, thoughts went back there, in past, bringing the reflections back.

Anna Hazare led anti-corruption movement of 2011 – one of the biggest civil movements of independent India – was launched successfully against its own elected government – but, unfortunately could not sustain – due to its own fault-lines. Much has been written about it.

We cannot say corruption engulfed it. In fact, we can still find many valid reasons to deny this proposition.

Yes, but we can say that one of the central reasons behind corruption – Indian politics of the day – led to its ‘efficient’ winding up.

And within three years, the movement has been buried deeply. No one talks about it. The mentions don’t go beyond occasional analytical pieces and discourses.

And the person who led it, who was the source behind the movement, who was the central plank around whom the movement and its campaign were designed by his ‘ardent follower of the day, Arvind Kejriwal and an outfit named ‘India Against Corruption” was being mentioned with satirical and humorous mentions today.

— By the acts of the people who used to be the core of the team behind the movement that made Anna Hazare a pan-India icon and an international figure and brought the members of ‘Team Anna’ in the socio-political thinking of the Indian masses.

The politicisation of the anti-corruption movement or to say political branching out of the anti-corruption movement that began with Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 reached to a full circle today with Kiran Bedi joining mainstream politics. We cannot say if there are other circles to come further on the way as almost of the big names of the movement, except few like Santosh Hegde, have taken the political plunge.

Majority of them went with Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party while those who alleged Arvind Kejriwal of compromising the movement chose to stay away. Kiran Bedi was the foremost among them.

And today, as was long expected, she emerged as the face of the party in direct confrontation with Arvind Kejriwal and AAP.

Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar, Shazia Ilmi, Kumar Vishwas – the essential names of the anti-corruption moment – are all political now.

Yes, some like Medha Patkar are continuing with their activism streak after losing the Lok Sabha polls, but most are fulltime politicians.

And even if we cannot place them, the neo-fulltime politicians, in the lot of the existing political class when it comes to corruption, they cannot be accommodated in our thoughts for the ‘team’ that made us to contribute to the anti-corruption movement of 2011.

The politics of AAP so far effectively tells us, that doesn’t behave differently. They are acting like the political class who India has always seen.

And yes, I tried to find ‘India Against Corruption’ on the internet, but it seems it doesn’t exist there any more.

Irony of changing India! Irony of Indian politics! Irony of political activism of India! Irony of India’s need for change agents!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LOKPAL: THE ‘COMPROMISED’ BILL IS LOGICAL ENOUGH TO BEGIN WITH

We are always free to demand for more and we will..

There have been debates and there will be debates on effectiveness of the just passed Lokpal Bill, to create an anti-corruption ombudsman. Some would dismiss. Some would extol. Some would remain skeptical and would prefer to wait and watch.

What was being demanded by the civil society was not a practical one. What was being given by the government was not an acceptable one.

But, the Bill passed ‘finally’ by the Indian Parliament on December 18, can be seen, more or less as an acceptable one to begin with. Broadly, it paves the way for an ombudsman that if implemented in time, with proper infrastructure and with supportive legislations like the Citizen Charter Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill and the Whistleblowers Protection Bill can prove really effective in spite of the reservations over many of its provisions.

The need is to develop a good ecosystem with all these constituents. Yes, we all know it’s easier said than done. And given the prevalence of political opportunism in India, we know it’s not going to be easy.

But, at least, we have a point to begin now.

The fight has been a long and circuitous one and this outcome should not be seen as a washout and should not be rejected outright. The Bill was to be passed and was to be enacted if we had to move ahead, from planning to implementations stage.

And if it could happen so, finally, after 45 or 50 years, any which way we want to look at it, it owes much to the hugely successful anti-corruption movement of 2011, especially its April and August legs that bolsters the feeling the Indians are learning to express their displeasure more and more expressively, more and more aggressively.

And that is a point to reflect on, to hope positively that an anti-corruption ecology around the Lokpal, with some other corresponding laws, can be created.

The basic requirement is the pressure from the public and its manifestation. It is good that public is increasingly expressing itself, more and more, and spontaneously, with or without a leader, as happened during the 2011 anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, as happened during the huge leaderless public protests in the aftermath of December 16 Delhi gangrape and recently in the unprecedented electoral mandate to the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi assembly polls, a party that fought on the issue of corruption and successfully exploited the public sentiments mobilized after the 2011 anti-corruption movement.

So, there is an ecology of pressure being built up. And on its target are the present ways of administration and governance by the mainstream political parties of India.

On the face of it, there are many good points in the Lokpal Bill/Act cleared. It has power to prosecute. It can check every government official including the prime minister. The process of Lokpal’s appointment and dismissal is fairly logical.

These basic rules to establish and govern the institution of the anti-corruption ombudsman are broad enough to give it a good enough space to breath, to make others suffocate.

See the good precedent set by the Election Commission of India and the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, both chosen by the Indian government. The regularly increasing voter turn-out election after election and clean and violence-free elections or consistent reports putting the government on back-foot on corruption and scams like 2G, different land and defense deals have become benchmarks of the Indian Democracy.

So, there is no reason to dismiss the Lokpal even before it starts working, when it has good enough autonomy to begin with.

It is true it is a ‘compromised’ bill with politicians putting their ‘sincere’ efforts to dilute it as much as they could in the prevailing sociopolitical scenario. So, there is some tough fighting ahead to iron out the difficulties once the institution gets operational. Even in that case, it would be much easier to bring amendments to introduce the required element of reform than not having the Lokpal at all.

One of the most talked about omissions is excluding the lower bureaucracy from Lokpal’s purview areas. That is a concern area but it is not something that can not be added later provided there is intent or there is pressure to do so.

If public pressure can panic the politicians to the extent that they can pass the Bill in just 10 days after Congress routing in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and AAP’s grand entry in Delhi in the election results announced on December 8, it can certainly push them to do so.

While a government of an outfit like AAP should happily, on its own, weed out the weaker elements, even a government of any of the mainstream political party would not be able to skirt the demand then, in an environment of a more aware electorate and more alert activists amid an increasing presence of alternative political parties and politicians like AAP or Arvind Kejriwal. AAP’s success in Delhi is bound to give India more of honest, young and unorthodox politicians in the days to come.

Alternatively, there can be this relevant afterthought. Corruption has made every part of the Indian administrative and governance machinery largely sluggish and docile.

As it affects every sphere of Indian life, its social, political and commercial activities, it has exported corruption to almost every section of Indian society, free of caste, class, religion and regional divides. It has made corruption interdependent and interrelated.

So, in a way, if we say, if we can check the corruption in the government at top level, setting some tough precedents, it can set in motion a ripple effect, that, though will take time, will trickle down to other participants, the NGO people, the lower-ranked bureaucracy and the corporate people, who are not covered under the Lokpal Act.

If there can be a check at the top level corruption, and if there can be some tough and landmark punitive action taken, some examples on this line, it will send down a clear message.

Also, when the government corruption at top level would see its avenues to earn easy money being squeezed out, it would certainly feel unhappy to see others still milking the cow.

Nothing like rocket science in thinking so – if they cannot eat, they will not let others eat – if they cannot earn easy money – they will not let others do so – the forced honesty!

So, in checking them, they would be more and more impartial, would be increasingly objective and detached.

Just an afterthought!

But I am not daydreaming folks! The Lokpal is here and that is a good sign; that is a logical reason to prepare for the next stage of the fight – to let it evolve into an effective institution.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

ANNA HAZARE’S RENEWED CALL FOR LOKPAL

Anna Hazare has begun his fast, again, to demand the enactment of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Though it made for peripheral headlines, and it didn’t mobilize the crowds to be there at his fast venue in his village Ralegan Siddhi in great numbers, and so it didn’t make for the lenses of the media already overworked with the deadlock on the government formation in Delhi after a hung-assembly verdict on December 8.

But the effect of AAP’s stunning victory in Delhi was clearly visible in the responses by the main political parties, Congress and BJP.

The Congress-led UPA government was guarded in its response after the drubbing it had in the recently held assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. PMO Minister V Narayansamy said on the day-1 of Anna Hazare’s fast that the government had written to the Rajya Sabha chairman for tabling of the Lokpal Bill.

Anna Hazare himself had recently told of a letter written to him by the Union Government a week ago detailing its stand on the Lokpal Bill and reiterating its commitment (not to be take at face-value) for the Bill in Winter Session of the Parliament.

And BJP, too, was not away. On day-2 of Anna Hazare’s fast, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, wrote to Anna Hazare expressing party’s commitment for the Lokpal Bill blaming the Congress party of diluting the Bill and backtracking on its promise to pass the Bill.

The Parliament is in session. All five days so far have been washed out. Issues like Telangana, Communal Violence Bill and JPC report on 2G Spectrum Scam are expected to maintain the logjam.

And anyway, even if the Lokpal as proposed by the government is tabled in the Rajya Sabha, it doesn’t ensure its passage. There are many bottleneck points where the political parties still differ.

Also, the government Lokpal, passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011, if institutionalized, is going to be a toothless entity, much different from the Jan Lokpal sought by Anna Hazare and the activists from the civil society associated with it. True, what is being sought by the civil society is not practical, but it is also equally true that what is being given by the government, is nothing more than a misleading exercise.

Politicians don’t look to pass even this ‘diluted’ Bill. Sitting over it for two years, after the high of the anti-corruption movement of 2011, from December 2011 to December 2013, clearly tells of their intentions.

But what makes it different this time is AAP’s brilliant but unexpected performance (for the mainstream political parties) in Delhi elections, a clear message to the political lot that public is looking for political change and is ready to experiment.

It is true the existing political lot is very thick-skinned but the timing of the next general elections, due next April-May, also makes it difficult for them to ignore this warning signal.

So, expect some verbal exercises from them, looking sincere and working to present and pass the Lokpal Bill in the ongoing session of the Parliament.

But, the fight remains. Even if the government’s Lokpal is passed, the next stage of the fight then will be to make it a ‘practically’ viable entity than can work effectively to check and prevent corruption.

It was good to see Arvind Kejriwal talking of supporting Anna’s movement during his victory rally at Jantar-Mantar in Delhi today. He said that he was going to Ralegan Siddhi tomorrow and would act the way Anna wanted. Though on separate paths now, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP should participate actively in Anna’s agitation, to payback for leaving the anti-corruption movement of 2011 midway!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/