Brand Anna and the law of diminishing returns

Recent events and circumstances surrounding the drafting of the Lokpal Bill have inadvertently proved that the law of diminishing returns, fundamentally a law of economics, applies to the political process too.

K Malmarugan June 22, 2011 18:50:29 IST
Brand Anna and the law of diminishing returns

Law of Diminishing Returns : In all productive PROCESSES, adding more and more of one particular INPUT while holding all other inputs constant, will lead to a situation where the OUTPUT per additional unit of the particular input will eventually decline. This implies that the utility of adding more of the same particular input to the process reduces the overall yield of the output itself.


The law of Diminishing Returns is one of the most fundamental laws of economics (as important to the subject as Newton’s Laws of Gravity are for physics). Recent events and circumstances surrounding the drafting of the Lokpal Bill have inadvertently proved that this fundamentally economics law can also apply to an innately political process.

On April 5, 2011, a Colossus by the name of Anna Hazare, strode on to the national arena demanding an end to corruption in India immediately. For a nation that was tottering from one corruption scandal to another and bereft of any national leader, the persona and the purpose of Anna, - or to use Kapil’s infamous characterisation, the Pied Piper and his lilting tune - was compulsive and irresistible. For the already-converted and eternal-optimists, Anna became the Mahatma himself, specifically resurrected to deliver Indians to Utopia, where everyone would be born, bred and die a white-lily.

For an unresponsive and venal UPA Government, the groundswell of aversion to corruption amongst the aam aadmi who chose to assemble in Jantar Mantar and elsewhere to support Anna, was a shocker. Eventually it caved in and agreed to the formation of a Joint Drafting Committee. The rest, as they say, is history.

Brand Anna and the law of diminishing returns


To the credit of Anna Hazare, no other individual, during this tumultuous phase of our history, could have brought in as much credibility, commitment, passion and perseverance to the Lokpal Bill drafting process as he has. His patriarch-like demeanour, his simplicity and candidness, his worldview, his track-record, his use of simple phrases to convey complex matters, his steadfastness to a cause, and above all, his readiness to subject himself to pain and suffering, floored even the sceptics and collaborators who retreated to their air-conditioned trenches and voids.

BRAND ANNA was thus born!

In the heady concoction of ingredients that were fed as inputs to the Lokpal Bill Drafting process, Brand Anna turned out to be the most potent. The government was forced to concede fundamental changes to its pedantic Bill by making the Lokpal more autonomous, providing it with its own investigating and prosecuting wings, etc.

But after the entire Baba Ramdev debacle, Team Anna, having realised their hold on the government, intensified the Brand Anna inputs, making a series of grand-standing threats of more fasts! Beyond a point, a cornered government refused to budge any further, particularly, after the June 15 Lokpal draft meeting which ended acrimoniously.

The marginal utility of Brand Anna, it seems, was definitely waning! The output of the process was now becoming unresponsive to the intensification of the input. And the likelihood of the quality of output declining is imminent.

To avoid any further mishap and to avoid one more Baba Ramdev incident from happening this time around, Team Anna needs to formulate a comprehensive course-correction strategy, immediately.

Before we embark on listing the likely course-correction measures, let us attempt a prognosis of what the government would or would not do from now on :

• Prima facie, and to the utter dismay of many die-hard Anna fans, the Joint Drafting Committee does not exist anymore post the June 21 meeting. At the most, while discussing with other sections of the civil society, the government may invite Team Anna as yet another set of participants.

• As promised, the government will put out a draft containing both the versions of contesting clauses to wider public and political consultation and consensus.

• In order to redeem its own image, the government could, within the Monsoon Session, attempt to pass the Lokpal Bill, preferably its own version – with inclusion of some changes suggested by Team Anna, subject to other political parties agreeing to them.

• Now that the commencement of Monsoon Session has been postponed to August 1, it is unlikely that the Bill will be passed before August 15, the deadline set by Anna.

• If Anna implements his fast the government may look at the fast as purely a law and order issue and deal with it accordingly. Especially now that the Joint Drafting Committee is now defunct.

This prognosis shows that, eventually, courtesy an intransigent Team Anna and a deceitful UPA Government, the country could irretrievably lose a historic opportunity to draft a strict Lokpal Bill after having come so close to the conclusion!

So how do we avoid such a prognosis and yet ensure that at least some of the critical issues raised by Team Anna are incorporated in the Final Bill ?

As an ardent supporter of a corruption-free India and also as a proud citizen, I would propose the following :

• CNN-IBN has outlined nine substantive areas of difference between the government and Team Anna. Amongst these nine areas - five areas of difference namely (a) Lokpal Panel to have CAG and CEC; (b) Inclusion of entire bureaucracy; (c) Lokpal in every State; (d) Amendment of CRPC and (e) Power to impose fine – seem to be surmountable, if the Parties engage in further negotiations. Remember, five out of nine!

• Amongst the remaining four issues, one issue – the inclusion of the higher judiciary within the scope of Lokpal – pertains to a separate pillar in our constitutional scheme. Considering this aspect, Team Anna needs to graciously provide space for the government to discuss with the higher judiciary. If the higher judiciary is willing to come under the aegis of the Lokpal, then there is no issue. However, if the higher judiciary is keen to have a separate legislation and mechanism, such a desire of an independent arm of the Constitution, would have to be respected by all concerned.

• This leaves us with only three areas of dispute, for which, I am afraid, Team Anna’s formulations are not only impractical but also untenable. One of the three issues pertains to the demand of Team Anna to merge CVC and CBI under a unified Lokpal. While this may sound logical and rational, considering the ‘leviathan’ of a Lokpal already accepted by the UPA, no government, be it Congress-led or BJP-led will accept this formulation.

• The other issue pertains to the conduct of the MPs for misdemeanours committed on the floor of the House. No Member of Parliament, whether BJP or Congress, is going to voluntarily give up his/her privileges leave alone the task of sorting out constitutional implications. If Team Anna persists with this demand, then it is a futile exercise!

• That brings us to the most important of all outstanding issues – the deal-breaker issue - which is the inclusion of prime minister within the scope of Lokpal Bill.

To many of us, the demand of Team Anna on this count, would appear logical and rational. The obvious counter-argument of the government that the prime minister is the ‘lynchpin’ of our Parliamentary democracy and hence should not be included under Lokpal cannot also be rejected outright. The case of the government has its own merits just as the case for inclusion of PM by Team Anna.

But the way Team Anna has been harping on this issue and the studied silence of the BJP on this specific issue (no formal position taken by BJP yet, even as its leaders have made ambiguous general purpose statements) is what is making it appear all the more sinister. At least in my view! Read with the demand to integrate CBI and CVC with Lokpal and also the demand for inclusion of PM under the Lokpal, one wonders whether Team Anna is after all that innocent – or to put it charitably, whether they are letting themselves being used by others! If someone is unable to see through this ploy, then he/she should be not only politically blind but also politically deaf and dumb.

What applies to Congress Party on the issue of inclusion of prime minister also applies to all the other one-man/woman show parties headed by men/women with prime ministerial ambitions – Why would BSP agree to put Mayawati on the block? Why would NCP agree to put Sharad Pawar on the block? Why would SP agree to put Mulayam Singh on the block? Why would RJD agree to put Laloo on the block?

I am surprised by the naivety of Team Anna and a horde of its supporters to even expect that all these parties will support their version, so that they will all self-destruct after handing over their respective leaders to the Lokpal!! Can it get any more naive than this?

If Team Anna chooses to see this writing on the political wall, temper its unwieldy demands (some would say sinister demands) and adopt a graduated and accommodative approach, then the nation will celebrate its members as heroes who heralded the Second Independence.

On the other hand, If Team Anna continues its intransigence and continue harping it-is-my-way-or-highway line, particularly when its motives are increasingly suspect, then the Team could eventually end up being a footnote in history!

K Malmarugan is one of Firstpost’s Community bloggers – picked to write for us from our audience commenters


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