Make no mistake about it. The decision of the Anna Hazare team to abjure the path of extra-political agitation against corruption and to fight the scourge by using the electoral system is certain to sound the death knell of the anti-corruption campaign in this country.

Briefly, corruption — basically meaning giving money-power the means to effect public decisions — has become endemic in Indian society, the implication being that nothing short of a shock treatment will be able to check the menace.

It follows from this that fighting the ailment from within the system is fraught with serious disadvantages.

Indeed, one may not be wrong to suggest that, with Team Anna’s decision to opt for the political path, the struggle has already ended, so to speak.

To some this may appear to be a defeatist point of view, the brunt of the argument being that it will be unfair to write off the campaign even before it is given a chance to prove itself.

Working with dishonesty

Point taken, but what is the use of giving the new approach an opportunity to prove itself when it has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the political process in the Indian republic has been toothless in the fight against corruption in public life. There is no political party — national or regional — which has not made reduction of corruption an important plank in its manifesto.

And yet, over the years, no progress whatsoever has been made in the direction. The question to ask is, why has this been so?

D. Raja, the CPI leader, has been quoted as having said that “denigrating all politicians and abusing all parties does not help. Now Team Anna will realise that law-making is a complex process.”

The Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ambika Soni, has declared that the team “will realise what are compulsions, what are responsibilities. Particularly, working with honesty is not easy.”

Such statements point to the fact that there are built-in restrictions which politicians have to face when they are targeting corruption, the inference being that, perforce they are forced to go slow and adopt a step-by-step approach.

Gradualism futile

But then, the gradualist approach has brought no good results for the country over the past decades. Secondly, as stated earlier, the need of the hour is to follow the shock-treatment route in the fight against corruption, which politics in India — rooted in the practice of gradualism — just will not deliver.

One must remember that whatever has happened to the Lokpal movement till now has been the result of the “mass” agitation begun by Anna Hazare and his team, which was nothing if not shock treatment.

That the impact of the movement has waned substantially in recent times cannot be denied, but does it mean that whatever little has been achieved by Hazare and his supporters will not stand the country in good stead in the years to come?

Essentially, the decision by Hazare to follow the political path is being welcomed by the political class because it reduces the pressure on them to react “now” to a campaign which, incidentally, good and honest politicians support in their heart of hearts but which none of them can push beyond well-defined limits.

Every politician must of necessity be enmeshed in wheeling and dealing, balancing contrary interests so that he or she can survive, which in reality is a form of corruption itself.

Thus, one cannot but wish the political experiment of Team Anna all success, but the nagging thought is that it is doomed to failure.

(This article was published on August 8, 2012)
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