Monday, April 11, 2011

"Jan Lokpal Bill is anti-democratic": Swapan Dasgupta

The abrupt emergence of Anna Hazare as the symbol of a largely middle-class outburst against the insincerity of the war on corruption has been puzzling. In many ways, this 71-year-old self-professed Gandhian from rural Maharashtra is a total antithesis of what modern India apparently stands for.
There are many features of the alternative Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Anna and his supporters that are either outrageous or quirky. The belief that a Lokpal appointed by a committee of the great and good should have overriding powers over an elected government is at best utopian and, at worst, anti-democratic. And the proposal of who should constitute the electoral college of the virtuous is, to say the least, eccentric. Why should all those of Indian origin honoured by the Nobel committee in Sweden and Norway and the last two Magsaysay Prize winners — chosen by a committee in the Philippines—be ex-officio members of a desi star chamber. Why not the recipients of the Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna? Or for that matter, why not everyone honoured by the local Rotary Club? 

The issue, fortunately, is neither the Lokpal Bill nor even the principle of ‘civil society’ representation in the drafting committee—a characteristically NGO-ish demand. The overwhelming majority of those inspired by Anna’s fast don’t seem all that preoccupied with the minutiae of a proposed legislation. What has excited them is the fact that someone of unimpeachable integrity has chosen to take a stand and confront a decrepit and smug system on the issue of corruption.

Aclinical dissection of what Anna actually represents and the forces backing him will not, however, divert focus from the growing groundswell against corruption. There is a political space for a credible, even angry, movement against the rot in India’s political system. Circumstances have allowed a venerable, gutsy and untainted outsider to fill the void. It’s the sentiment behind his anointment that is relevant, not the fine print of a law to make India virtuous.

Swapan Dasgupta in Times of India. More Here.

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