Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anna Hazare, Jan Lokpal and the threat to representative democracy

The principal focus of concerted public action today, is a shifty, ill-defined target. And “corruption” is in the discourse of most of those who have joined the Hazare campaign, a term of wide amplitude, referring to a host of anxieties that have lately manifested themselves in the middle-class consciousness. The economic downturn since late-2008 has not shown up in official economic statistics, but it is a part of peoples’ lives in India. Inflation has become a more perceptible threat than ever before in two decades. The vaulting ambitions of India’s bulging “youth demographic strata” are under stress, making nonsense of the beguiling prospects held out by the media just over two years ago. And as the global economy itself lurches into a possible double-dip recession, the promise of India’s emergence on the world stage as a superpower seems rather dim. 

Political corruption is a convenient target onto which this whole complex of anxieties could be shifted. And the seeming urgency of creating an authority superior to all others, meshes neatly with elite convictions that representative democracy has been a colossal failure. But if failure is encoded into the genesis of the institution that Hazare and his flock have designated as the ultimate solution to the anxieties of Indian democracy, it must be asked what their reaction would be when this reality becomes undeniable. It should be asked if the target could then shift from “corruption” to “politics” itself. If representative democracy could itself fall victim to awakening Indian middle-class rage.
Sukumar Muralidharan in his blog. Here

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