“Trust is particularly elusive in high-stress, high-stakes conditions,” says a Harvard paper titled ‘Six ways to build trust in negotiations’ authored by Deepak Malhotra.
The entire history of the battle between representatives of civil society led by Anna Hazare, and the politicians, personified by the Congress, repeatedly proves the truth of Malhotra’s comment. There is no doubt that the Lokpal Bill, to Team Anna and the politicians, is a high stakes game, leading to high-stress negotiations – where trust has been found supremely elusive.
Since the temporary resolution of the issue – which did not end in a resolution, but by a statement on the ‘sense of the house’, trust has continued to be elusive.
Anna Hazare‘s comments at his first rally at Ralegan Siddhi added to the atmosphere of distrust. “He is not speaking the truth. He is the real ‘khodsal’‘ (mischief-maker) behind my arrest even before I could start my fast. The DIG told me that they (cops) got orders from the top,” Hazare said. “This government consists of a mob of ‘labaad’ (cunning) people,” he said in Marathi,” reports the Times of India.
While the fire and brimstone made the headlines, Hazare brought down the temperature a bit with a mollifying statement: “I request the government to leave the vindictive attitude and unite Indians for making India a super power.”
This is the one statement that politicians in general, and the government, in particular, need to latch on to.
Hazare has, wittingly or unwittingly, suggested that there is a common cause.
That’s why negotiations are required – and that both sides need to win.
“Power is said to pervade all facets of negotiation. Indeed, the very idea of negotiation intuitively conjures images of power contests and tough bargaining,” says Yan Ki Bonnie Cheng in the Harvard Negotiation Law Review.
In the current context, there is an asymmetry of power; the government is more ‘powerful’ than civil society representatives, and therein lies the first stumbling block. Negotiations must move to a win-win atmosphere rather than a battle in which one is a winner and the other a loser. On the evening of the ‘sense of the house’ statement, much airtime on news channels focused on who was the winner and what the margin of victory was. Many, till today, are unclear.
As long as the negotiations are projected as having the capacity to throw up only one winner, the current rhetoric will continue. The loser, then, will be all stakeholders, with a Lokpal Bill that is somewhere between what was wanted by Team Anna and what politicians are hoping to get. Neither wins.
The relational dimension is captured in Dahl’s definition that “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something B would not otherwise do”. For example, most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are less resourceful than the World Bank. Yet the Bank can enhance the legitimacy of its programs by including NGOs. Over time, participating NGOs could influence the Bank’s agendas to some extent. Thus viewed, parties with asymmetric resources may well share a mutually dependent relationship,” continues Cheng.
Anna Hazare’s movement has shown the way – and has, in all likelihood, created a precedent for others to follow. In all instances, the battles will be asymmetric, but, as Cheng says, the parties involved could share a mutually dependent relationship.
The first step is for the more powerful entity to increase trust in the relationship, so that an atmosphere for congenial discussions can be created. Congeniality does not mean that either has to sacrifice or dilute demands; it just implies that each will listen to the other’s position in an atmosphere of openness rather than one of distrust.
The more powerful entity, in this case the government, needs to take the first steps in trust-building. Cease from these ridiculous attempts at browbeating Team Anna by privilege motions and income-tax cases and resorting to Sec 144. Take a decision that there will be no harassment along these lines – and make a public announcement to that effect.
Next, engage with Team Anna. Engage with Anna Hazare, engage with Arvind Kejriwal, engage with Prashant Bhushan and explain the point of view of the political classes and the concerns on specific aspects of the Lokpal Bill. Do this continuously, and, during the course of these discussions, demonstrate that the Government is committed to a strong Lokpal Bill. Engage with them so that, when the Standing Committee presents a draft Lokpal Bill in Parliament, emotions can be overridden by argument and debate – and everyone involved feels that they win.
As a first step, the prime minister ought to send an emissary, one who is more trusted by Team Anna, to Ralegan Siddhi to apprise Anna Hazare of the government’s intent. Salman Khurshid woud do nicely.
Simultaneously, Team Anna needs to lower the rhetoric – and maintain the dignity in their criticism. It’s not what they say, but how they say what they say.
If the warring sides continue to want to win and the other to lose, the outcome may be that both, sadly, lose.
And the ultimate loser is the citizen of India, someone both sides claim to represent.