Anna and beyond: Can our parties ensure the dignity of Parliament?
The opposition plans street protest against corruption, mimicking Anna Hazare’s movement. How ridiculous a move that is! Why cannot they settle issues in Parliament?
The political class still does not get it. Anna Hazare’s movement is as much against corruption as against our wayward politicians. People are tired of politicians playing politics all the time — among themselves and with the common man.
When Team Anna displays a contemptuous disregard for Parliament and its procedures it is not exactly the dignity of the august institution it is targeting, its contempt is directed against the people who have let the institution down by ceaseless self-serving politicking. That a whole mass of people doesn’t mind Anna taking on Parliament is proof of the damage caused to it by our politicians.
Not many of the youngsters rallying around Anna really would be aware of the special dignity attached to the institution or its centrality to our existence as a democracy. They are too young, too impressionable, too restless. They are taken in too easily by the romance of the high cause and respond immediately to the call for rebellion, even if it is a misguiding one. But they are supposed to be like that only. They are young people, by nature impatient and irreverent to institutions.
If for a large section of the younger generation Parliament comes across as no bigger than the sum total of the elected representatives and all the negatives associated with them, the blame lies with our parliamentarians. They have not conducted themselves with dignity in the House, behaved irresponsibly generally and have not taken efforts to be looked up with respect.
A brief look at the proceedings in Parliament is strong enough to turn even a sober man cynical — we have seen some improvement in the last few days though — and this is a generation which has grown up watching representatives exchanging verbal abuses, throwing punches at each other, hurling mikes, staging walkouts, forcing adjournment of the House and indulging in everything that does behove leaders of people.
Anna’s movement was expected to drill some sense into the leaders. It has not. They look in no hurry to mend their ways. Nine non-UPA, non-NDA parties are contemplating an all-India protest seeking withdrawal of the government's Lokpal Bill from Parliament. The parties include those of the Left, the TDP, the Janata Dal (S), the AIADMK, the Biju Janata Dal and some others. Some of these parties do not raise confidence given their own corruption track record. Moreover, they are intriguingly silent about the Jan Lopkpal Bill.
Obviously, it is good old politics at play. They don’t want to be left out in the battle against corruption; they have to satisfy their own constituency, send out a message. They want to recapture some of the opposition space taken over by the civil society groups. The chance to corner the embattled government is an additional incentive.
The BJP-led NDA, too, is keen on an agitation against corruption on the same day. Interestingly, the party has too many reservations about the Jan Lokpal Bill of Team Anna and its approach to the ongoing agitation and more specifically the bill has been ambiguous. It's clear none of the parties want the civil society's bill discussed in Parliament. They would rather launch into street shows to score political brownie point if there are some to be collected. It would help muddle the situation. A discussion in House will only expose their double standards, a risk none would like to take at this juncture.
It's now clear that the political class is out to wrest the initiative and the limelight back from the Anna Hazare-led civil society. For them, the immediate issue is certainly not the Lokpal Bill, for them it is an issue of staying relevant. The civil society has taken up too much of political space which should belong to the opposition in a party-based polity. They have to wrestle back that space.
As parties launch into their antics on the streets, the popular disillusionment against them will only get sharper. There’s a clear disconnect between the leaders and the people they represent right now. Their tactic to obfuscate the battle against corruption would make the chasm wider. It is interesting to note that none of the parties has taken a principled position on the Lopkpal issue so far. It makes their battle against corruption suspect.
The Congress has shot himself repeatedly in the foot over the last few months, the parties don’t smell of roses either.
The end result of this hypocritical approach is further erosion of trust in political parties and Parliament. If political parties cannot save the dignity of Parliament, it's only proper someone else takes up the responsibility.
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