Couple of months back I posted my thoughts about the need for Anna and the team to do some soul searching considering the increasing tensions that were evident and out there in the media for us to absorb. The fears that i had at that time didn't prove too off the mark looking at the response that the movement received this time.
Anna Hazare and his team did a wonderful job in bringing the issue of corruption to national consciousness. Considering the various layers and layers of issues and important questions that lie in each clause at a technical level, it is critical that the bill is debated thoroughly before it sees the light of the day. The debates in the Parliament undoubtedly were fine exhibition of understanding of legislation and political rhetoric. A learning experience for me for sure.
As much as it will be important to understand in what form Congress brings the bill back to Lok Sabha, it will be critical to understand what does Anna do to build the pressure for a strong Lok Pal. When i state thus, i am not referring to Anna as the person who should be responsible for creating pressure but as someone who has already taken the lead and did manage to capture the imagination of people at large. Its not his agenda alone but a national cause for which he waged the battle.
To understand the sudden silence in December's fast, it may help to do a kind of referendum (on its own approach) that the group claimed to do in Chandni Chowk to understand what really went wrong. Why weren't people enthusiastic any more. And the more difficult question is how do we enthuse people now?
Just one day prior to the proposed fast i.e on 26th of Dec, law minister- Salman Khurshid was asked by Barkha Dutta about what he felt about the over 1 lakh people who had signed the online petition towards "jail bharo" call His response was 'signing online and actually going to jail are completely different aspects. We will see how many actually do that.' As a politician it is not surprising that their sense of pulse of people will be better than people outside or else why will they be elected representatives but that surely should also encourage us as citizens to understand where did the civil society lose out?
In a very interesting turn, Medha Patkar who was as vocal as anyone can be in the August'11 fast, in one of the talk shows held just the day the bill was being debated in Rajya Sabha states that they should not insist on the timeline now that the debate is being done rigorously. This again is a shift from the earlier stand of we have to get the bill passed in the winter session.
Thus it seems that every aspect of argument or stand that one is taking in the passing of this historic bill, there are strong arguments from either side and a loud claim of one section knowing it all is highly misplaced at least and a grave error at maximum. Thus if someone says that the panel should have representation from various sections, another section of society says why should there be quota in something like LokPal which should be an unbiased body. Similarly Pratap Bhanu Mehta- head of center for civil society made a compelling case in front of Standing Committee on why the PM should not be part of Lok Pal and how that argument was fairly strong. Thus if each aspect of this bill along with the method of public pressure is so contentious, it is anyone's guess on what will work and what won't.
Thus strategizing for Anna is going to be very difficult going ahead since one it would call for him to eat some of the words that he committed and secondly each decision would be fraught with greatest uncertainty on how the civil society will actually take it and whether it would support it.
It has to be principally understood that in a political domain, one's powers emerge from the support base that we are able to gather and not our belief or conviction alone. If the latter doesn't result in the former, the person will be as weak or strong as any other person walking on the street.