The Anna upsurge is about snipping neta-babu power

Between them politicians and bureaucrats enjoy too much power. It comes at the cost of the common man. It has to change. The Anna movement aims to redistribute power.

Akshaya Mishra August 19, 2011 14:06:19 IST
The Anna upsurge is about snipping neta-babu power

Anna Hazare’s movement has left the political class and bureaucracy wary. The cause is not the shape of the Jan Lokpal Bill itself but its wider ramifications. It threatens to disturb the arrangement of power in our democracy that remains heavily tilted towards these groupings; it threatens to erect a permanent lamp-post in the dark and secretive world of people who lord it over the country.

Between them, politicians and bureaucrats, enjoy too much power, too much influence. If one takes the total power as a mathematical constant, they corner a disproportionately high share of it. When they combine with other interests – such as corporate interest, the builders' lobby, et al – it becomes dangerous. The cumulative power available with the politician-bureaucrat-big money nexus becomes too large.

Since power is a quantity that is exercised at the cost of others, the common man has to bear the brunt. With all the resources at its command, it is easy for the nexus to trample on his powers.

The Anna upsurge is about snipping netababu power

Like all movements in history, Anna Hazare's movement too aims at a redistribution of power. R Senthil Kumar/PTI

It has been going on for too long – the nexus has been a constant in the India narrative from the socialist days through the days of liberalisation till now. It’s only now that this power imbalance is coming under full public glare. Possibly, the nexus became too arrogant and too careless. The brazen manipulation involved in the host of mind-boggling scandals in recent times – the 2G spectrum scam, the CWG scam, the Adarsh scandal, to name a few — is a pointer to the fact.

When Anna Hazare says the threat from the politician-bureaucrat nexus is more dangerous than the threat posed to India by Pakistan, he is bang on target. It is a damning statement of fact on the state of affairs in the country.

The resistance had to come in some form. It had been coming in a trickle over the last few years. There have been exemplary acts of courage from individuals like Satyendra Dube, whose whistleblowing act turned the spotlight on the NHAI scam, and Manjunath, who had to pay with his life for exposing the oil mafia.

The trickle has gathered strength and with Anna’s movement it has become a force strong enough to make the powerful shiver. In the brouhaha over the anti-corruption agitation, let’s not forget the role played by institutional players like Vinod Rai, the Comptroller and Auditor General, and the courts.

Like all movements in history, it aims at a redistribution of power. It is concentrated with too few right now, creating scope for abuse. The political class and the bureaucracy have to cede some of it by being accountable, though they will still be a powerful given the unique position they occupy in the country’s affairs.

The mobilisation of people works here. Nobody gives up power voluntarily. It has to be wrested. Team Anna’s insistence on a street show of popular support makes sense in the larger scheme of things though it might look a bit out of place here.

The political class, obviously, would love to see the storm pass without it having to make too many compromises. Anna’s movement should not allow them that comfort. One of the fundamental incentives for people joining politics is the power it offers. Bureaucrats get power by default. This has to be diluted.

This is where the real challenge for Anna’s movement lies. It must make the most of the present mobilisation and make it a sustainable one. The nexus will always try to strike back or manipulate to revert to the present arrangement.

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