Ringing in change

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on February 02, 2014

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In his Republic Day address, the President warned the nation about the pitfalls of “populist anarchy” and made the pointed remark that it could not be a “substitute for governance”.

But what if “governance” is mired in corruption to such an extent that the electorate in a fit of populism, sweeps into power a fledgling party which flags as its credo the fight against corruption in public life?

Of course, this does not justify a policy of “populist anarchy” or “anarchic populism”, but what if a jolt is required to drive into the consciousness of the establishment that times are changing -- that the old mindset on governance has to give way to a fresh scheme of things?

The nation is aware of the 2012 campaign of Anna Hazare which ultimately led to the falling in line of the major political parties, and the Lokpal legislation being adopted by Parliament.

One remembers the wise words of caution uttered on that occasion by no less a person than the Prime Minister himself, the crux of his message being that popular protest could not take over the functions of Parliament.

Populist pressure

He was right because, in the event of such a thing happening there would be no governance at all.

But one cannot deny that such populist pressure was finally able to get the Lokpal Bill (with all its imperfections) off the ground, which can only be seen as a step forward in the scheme of governance in the long run. The President left no room for doubt that he was referring to the Aam Aadmi Party when he said that “elections do not give any person the licence to flirt with illusions” and that “those who seek the trust of voters must promise only what is possible”.

The world knows what the AAP’s principal policy plank is, the President too subscribing to it in his message when he proclaimed: “Corruption is a cancer that erodes democracy, and weakens the foundations of our State. If Indians are enraged it is because they are witnessing corruption and waste of national resources. If governments do not remove these flaws, voters will remove governments.”

The better tool

Arvind Kejriwal broke away from Anna Hazare’s campaign because he felt the political route would be more effective and expedient in attaining the objective.

The “enraged” Delhi electorate duly voted him to power, but once in the driver’s seat Kejriwal probably realises that Anna’s mass approach would be a better tool to drive sense into the minds of those in the seat of power at the Centre.

Even if they wanted to, those in power cannot simply transform themselves into the sort of people the electorate would like them to be.

Sixty-seven years of abject failure in reigning in, among other things, the “cancer of corruption” strongly suggests that Indian politics is in need of a re-launch and not merely a cosmetic re-design.

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal and their motley group are currently in the vanguard of this movement.

But there is no certainty at all that they will succeed — and they must if there is to be hope for the future of the Republic.

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Published on February 02, 2014
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