Tag Archive for 'Jan Lokpal Bill'

Now, Team Anna wants to party

Mukul Kesavan in The Times of India:

The calling card of India Against Corruption (IAC) has been indignant virtue. Its virtue derives from its leadership’s record of public service, its indignation is directed at the corruption in India’s public life. The appeal and drawing power of virtuous indignation lies in the brazen dishonesty of the political establishment and the middle class’s gift for seeing itself as the blameless victim of a parasitic state.

Arvind Kejriwal, the strategist of the Anna Hazare movement, displayed an early appreciation of television as a means of magnifying virtue. In the early days, before the first Jantar Mantar fast made Anna a household name, he drew Baba Ramdev into the movement because of the drawing power of Ramdev’s television persona. At the time he was uncertain whether Anna’s charisma as a provincial activist would scale up to fill a national stage.

After the landmark Ramlila Ground fast which delivered the remarkable spectacle of India’s imperious political class waiting upon a fasting septuagenarian’s every move, Anna’s success in creating a civil society juggernaut seemed complete. Parliament promised a Lokpal law based on the Jan Lokpal Bill and Anna’s moral authority as a Gandhian fasting his way to martyrdom or political victory briefly eclipsed Parliament’s standing as the republic’s elected legislature. More:

A for Anna, B for Baba, C for Camera

Bishwanath Ghosh in The Hindu:

Do we even realise how little we work our minds these days when it comes to analysing events around us? We feed on the frenzy whipped up by news channels; and, when caught in a verbal duel between distinguished panellists with colliding views, we are so confused that we end up adopting the voice and the demeanour of the excited news anchor. Since TV news is 24/7, you are never ever given a chance to let your own thoughts precipitate: the animated anchor is always breathing down your neck, telling you what to think.

Amid such cacophony, listening to a yoga guru can be a pleasant distraction. I gave up watching TV news long ago, ever since the channels discovered the art of breaking news, but I always loved watching the telecast of Baba Ramdev’s yoga camps, even though he would keep demonstrating the same set of postures and breathing exercises day after day, month after month.

Here was a man — a hitherto unheard-of swami in a country that boasts of larger-than-life gurus — who got the entire country practising pranayama. Even on trains and in public parks you could see people sitting upright and either exhaling forcefully or breathing through alternate nostrils. The talkative swami had brought about a yoga revolution, something that serious, larger-than-life gurus could not succeed in doing in their own country even though they are worshipped in the West. All this thanks to TV. More:

The architect of the Anna Hazare campaign

Mehboob Jeelani profiles Arvind Kejriwal in the Caravan:

Arvind Kejriwal

Shortly after Anna Hazare broke his fast-unto-death on 9 April, a group of young people encircled a small man with a black moustache at Jantar Mantar and began shouting the famous pre-independence slogan: Inquilab Zindabad! (Long Live Revolution!). He continued walking toward a group of cars when a young man wearing a red bandanna pushed through the crowd, blocking his way and screaming out, “Sir, don’t call off the fast. Repeat the revolution.” The man returned the smile, and slid into the car.

This man was Arvind Kejriwal, a 43-year-old social activist from East Delhi. Though Hazare is the recognised face of an anti-corruption campaign that began with his fast on 5 April, Kejriwal is the architect of the movement—the man journalists swarm to, seeking an interview. At press briefings, he often sits next to Hazare and helps the self-styled Gandhian handle tough questions: Kejriwal whispers into Hazare’s ear or scribbles key points on a piece of paper lying between them. When questions are posed to Kejriwal, he responds like an impassioned professor explaining a complicated problem—piling detail upon detail with the supreme confidence that his answer is the correct one. His essential message never changes: only a powerful independent anti-corruption agency, with wide-ranging authority and minimal government interference, can cure the plague of graft—and anything less will fail.

The ideas that would eventually lead to the Jan Lokpal Bill—and plans for a mass mobilisation to support it—had been on Kejriwal’s mind at least since September 2010, when public frustration with the inept preparations for the Commonwealth Games erupted into fury over evidence of widespread corruption. India’s middle classes, who already saw the event as a tremendous waste of money, were further enraged when the Games delivered nothing but international embarrassment and a multi-million rupee scam. Kejriwal, however, saw an opportunity to mobilise public opinion against corruption, and began to plot the course that would lead “Team Anna” into a high-profile showdown with the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition. He spent his days consulting with experts and prospective allies, from lawyers to bankers to former bureaucrats and religious leaders, as well as his colleagues in the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). He devoted his nights to drafting and revising a bill to create a new Lokpal: an independent body vested with the extraordinary powers—to investigate, prosecute and sometimes even judge—that Kejriwal thought necessary to prevent any politician or bureaucrat from obstructing the agency’s work. More:

Why I’d rather not be Anna

While his means might be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are most certainly not, writes Arundhati Roy in The Hindu

If what we’re watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you’re likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind.

For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people. (In this one, the Government collaborates by doing everything it possibly can to overthrow itself.) more