India’s cri de coeur


When Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan was arrested by Mrs Indira Gandhi after imposing the emergency (1975-77), he cited a Sanskrit saying: Vinasha kale vibareta buddhi, meaning that when the ruler faces bad times, his thinking also gets warped. Anna Hazare, hitherto an unnoticed leader from Maharashtra, was arrested at Delhi because he had inspired a movement to have a Lokpal (ombudsman). He should have also quoted JP’s words because the government flip-flopped, first arresting him in the morning and then offering to release him in the evening. It is another matter that he has refused to come out of jail.

The Manmohan Singh government has made a fool of itself. First, it asked the obliging Commissioner of Police (CP) B K Gupta to arrest Anna Hazare and told the world that it was the CP’s doing. Then the government or its core group decided to release Hazare. The scene by then had shifted to the Congress headquarters where the prime minister was also present. Here Rahul Gandhi was the boss in the absence of his mother Sonia Gandhi. He met the prime minister and the decision to release Hazare was apparently taken. Once again, the poor CP was made a scapegoat for having gone wrong on the arrest. He, too, retraces his steps by offering Hazare a conditional release.

The role of a local magistrate was comical. He followed the CP’s path under pressure. He first sent Hazare to judicial custody for seven days. There is no law under which he could act against a person who says he would go on a fast. It is a pity that the Delhi High Court did not act suo moto to quash the order which had made a mockery of the judiciary. The same magistrate revoked the order, again under pressure.

The entire exercise has made me sit up and notice how the police and the judiciary act on commands. This is exactly what happened during the emergency. Whatever Mrs Gandhi-Sanjay Gandhi wished was implemented, overriding all rules and regulations. Significantly, like today the Congress was ruling at the centre at that time. Then the government functionaries acted because the emergency had suspended the constitution and therefore had no recourse. This time they are doing so without the emergency. They have gotten used to unconstitutional governance to such an extent that they have become a willing tool of tyranny imposed by political masters.

I fear the worst scenario for the ruling Congress which has become arrogant and has cut off itself from the people. I can see the demand for Lokpal translating itself into a demand for the resignation of the Manmohan Singh government. It is beginning to happen sooner than expected. The stock of the government, already battered after the disclosures of numerous scams, has gone down still further. Whatever it does is going to boomerang on it.

The reason why I think a mid-term election is inevitable because the Hazare movement has taken the shape of people’s movement. The Lokpal bill has been put aside and the resentment against the government is being ventilated through the denunciation of rulers. The core group of ministers may argue that the Lokpal bill initiated in parliament has the scope of improvement. But the public is far ahead and may ultimately ask for new representatives in the Lok Sabha.

The political parties, except the ruling Congress, may change their stance before long. The BJP is already supporting the movement, expecting some recognition from Hazare. Gujrat chief minister Narendra Modi has unilaterally praised the movement. His purpose is, however, to extricate himself from the pariah position to which he has been reduced after planning and executing the pogrom for ethnic cleansing. Anna Hazare’s team is doing well to keep Modi and the BJP at a distance. Muslims in India are still suspicious of Hazare, although he has withdrawn the praise he had expressed for Modi in one of his statements. Hazare’s team has to be doubly cautious lest the BJP should sneak in at some time.

I recall how the Jana Sangh, the first reincarnation of the BJP, went back on the understanding it gave to JP. The Jana Sangh vowed to snap its connections with the RSS after it (the Sangh) was taken into the Janata Party. Little did JP suspect then that they wanted credibility which the membership of the Janata Party would give. Let the BJP sever its connection with the RSS if it wants to be part of the movement.

I am hoping for the emergence of a third alternative after the success of the ongoing movement. JP too began haltingly. The government went on making one mistake after another and enabling him to convert the movement into people’s outcry against the centre. He did not give a call for new elections initially. But when the government’s attitude remained intractable, he had no choice except to say: Let’s go back to the people. Mrs India Gandhi was trounced to such an extent that she and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, lost the election. The Congress should see the writing on the wall.

The party has dug its own grave. It should have compromised on the Lokpal bill. Hazare was willing at one time to concede a bit of ground on Lokpal’s authority over the judiciary and the prime minister. The government should have redrafted the judicial commission bill to allay Hazare’s doubts. The prime minister could be arraigned before the Lokpal only on matters involving his corruption, not his governance.

Prime Minister Inder Gujral was strongly against the Lokpal because of the dangers entailed in exposing the office to Lokpal. But he was not opposed to having some provisions against the prime minister if, prima facie, a case was established. We have had two corrupt prime ministers, P V Narasimha Rao arrested in the Jharkhand case for buying votes. Rajiv Gandhi was exposed on the Bofors kickbacks. We cannot afford to keep the office of prime minister outside the purview of the Lokpal.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist.


  1. Indian Govt is insincere and dishonest and so are the other political parties. The whole logjam is caused by Govt taking shelter behind technicalities and procedures to delay things and let this movement die. My feeling is that Parliament's power in this rare of rarest cases must by diluted because of conflict of interests. Why would people sitting in parliament like to have an institution that has power to investigate thier acts of omission and commission ???? Moreever Lokpal is not a mere law it is going to be an institution. Day in day out these parlimantarians violate rules, procedures and laws why are they so mindful of procedures in this case. The truth is this they don't want a strong lokpal.

  2. Those who criticize Anna as not a true Gandhian must understand that even Gandhiji faced criticism. This is turning point in the history of indian democracy as this movement has a large base and had been peaceful. This is first time we hear about an agitation which is not against any particular person, political party, religion or anything like that. So many people have been unnerved. Corrpution hurts everyone so I hope every fairminded Indian must support Anna's movement which in not perfect but offers some thing tangible and doable inform of having a strong Lokpal who can work without fear and favour. It will not be a threat to democracy or parliament or constitution. If Anna fails no one will ever garner this much support against the democratic dictators of today's India.

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