This Independence Day morning, as I was taking my usual morning walk around the Five Gardens area of Dadar in Central Mumbai, patriotic songs were blaring all over. The national flag was unfurled in many places, and also at Five Gardens.
As I inwardly sang the Jana Gana Mana and listened to the usual Bharat Mata Ki Jai being uttered three times after the flag-hoisting, a new line crept in: "Anna Hazare, Hum Tumhare Saat Hain".
Somewhere, somehow nobody is getting this: that Anna has become a symbol of something more than just old-style Gandhian values. He is the symbol a forlorn nation is clutching on to when confronted with the sheer brazenness of the politician.
Like most Indians, I would like something worthwhile do be done to reduce corruption. But the way that UPA has handled itself between the first Anna Hazare fast and now, it is clear that its intentions were foul. When the first fast ended, the government at least looked like it was open to doing something about corruption. But now we know: it was just an elaborate charade conducted to reduce public anger and buy time.
I believe that the UPA has been one of the most shameless governments in recent times, not because of the corruption scandals already unearthed, but because of the way it is pretending everything is normal and trying to save itself by tarnishing others. It has destroyed the last bit of faith India has in its rulers - and is looking for someone outside the usual political class to give it hope: Anna Hazare's strength derives from this yearning.
When it comes to Anna and his remedies for corruption, I have personally been less than enthusiastic. The reason: policing politicians and bureaucrats through a strong Jan Lokpal is important, but it will not end the scourge.
To end corruption, the key changes required are these: electoral funding reform, freeing public sector companies from political control, creating a transparent administration, and reducing the citizen interface to a minimum by e-enablimg most transactions, and so on.
Anna Hazare has not thought through many of these issues or come up with suggestions to reduce systemic corruption.
But, if it comes to a choice between Manmohan Singh and his Congress thugs, I am squarely in Anna Hazare's corner. I do not believe in his fasting, but I know his heart is in the right place and his supporters have more credibility than the government.
How can I trust a Manmohan Singh government which has known all the while what Raja and Kalmadi were up to, but did nothing? In fact, the PM was clearly complicit in their crimes even if he did not benefit from it.
How can I trust the PM in waiting Rahul Gandhi when he rushes to Dadri Kond or Bhatta Parsaul to woo voters, but has had no worthwhile suggestion to make on corruption?
How can I trust a Kapil Sibal or a P Chidambaram or a Manish Tiwari whose only answer to Anna Hazare's challenge is to call him corrupt and dish out an old Sawant report that talks of possible misuse of Rs 2 lakh? Rs 2 lakh of minor irregularity when the UPA is trying to excuse a several thousand crore telecom scam as part of policy? Come on.
How can I trust a government that thinks fasting is coercion (it is, but it is better than the coercion of the midnight swoop on Baba Ramdev) but is more than willing to ban books and films on the plea that it will create law and order problems? A peaceful fast is coercion, but a Raja's demand to subvert sensible policy is not coercion?
How can I trust a government which will not make these fundamental reforms when it keeps claiming legislation is parliament's business and then goes on to fiddle while India burns?
How can I trust a BJP that revels in the government's apparent discomfiture with Anna Hazare but still is evasive on its own stand on the Lokpal Bill?
When it comes to the crunch, I would rather stand with Anna Hazare than anyone else in the motley crowd of corrupt politicians whose moral bankruptcy is sought to be hidden in constitutional niceties.
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Updated Date: Aug 15, 2011 09:42:04 IST