Aseem Trivedi's controversial cartoon depicting the Indian Parliament as a stinking commode with flies hovering around it, successfully captures the common man's anger and frustration with the politicians of the day.
The cartoon controversy and the drama following the sedition charge on Trivedi erupted at a time when the nation's most prominent anti-corruption movement had suffered a vertical split. The fundamental point of difference between the leader of the Jan Lokpal movement, Anna Hazare and the movement's prime architect, Arvind Kejriwal, was over the issue of formation of a political party.
While Kejriwal was in favour of establishing a political party to fight elections, Anna wanted his movement to be apolitical and the two decided to go their separate ways. "Now, the movement has separated. One will go the political way while the other will take the movement route. Both these routes are important. The paths are different but the goals are same," Hazare said in Delhi clarifying matters and ending speculation once and for all.
This ends the Jan Lokpal movement as it existed. Team Anna stands disbanded and the familiar sight of a fasting Anna flanked by Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia the father-son Bhushans and others at Jantar Mantar with Kiran Bedi waving the flag rhythmically is now a thing of the past.
Although many feel disillusioned with the way the movement has dissipated and disintegrated, some of its spectacular successes won't be forgotten easily. Among the most captivating was the Sense of the House resolution adopted by Parliament in August 2011 accepting "in principle" some of the demands of the Lokpal movement.
Eventually, the manner in which the movement was outwitted by the politicians and the high expectations created by the 24x7 media coverage also brought with it many valuable lessons. While Hazare is determined to fight his battles apolitically —as he has done all his life —Kejriwal is not entirely wrong in wanting to establish a political party. After all, politicians get their power from the votes cast by the people and if the people truly want to bring a change, there's no alternative but to go and cast one's vote.
If the politicians of the day have reduced Parliament to a dirty commode, as conveyed by the cartoonist, can one expect the politicians to clean it themselves? The people have no choice but to undertake this task themselves.
A large section of the middle class keeps away from politics because "it is dirty". There is, however, no alternative and as Mahatma Gandhi's follower and leader of the Bhoodan movement, Vinoba Bhave asked, who is dirty, the one who makes dirt or the one who cleans it? If the Indian people truly want better politicians to represent them in parliament, there's really no easy way out but to take the difficult road of electoral politics and electoral reforms.
The first and foremost step in this direction is to exercise the democratic responsibility of casting one's vote. Change can be expected only when those who habitually don't vote do so by the thousands. Wearing "I am Anna" caps or participating in candlelight marches and vigils may result in good photo-ops for the media. But this won't achieve anything substantial as when the same number of people go out and vote for a better candidate in the elections.
The reality of Indian politics is such that it is heavily tilted in favour of career politicians backed by various political parties, their ideologies and caste compulsions and who use money to influence votes. How else can one explain the success of a host of regional parties across the country, right down to the newest kid on the block—Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which has made impressive electoral gains?
Clean candidates, even of the stature of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Defence Minister AK Antony, need the support of a political party to enter Parliament. They can rarely make it on their own— howsoever earnest or deserving as say the ex-IAS officer Arun Bhatia who lost bitterly in two Lok Sabha elections in Pune. Bhatia ran a crusade against corruption for three decades while in office but lost to tainted Congressman Suresh Kalmadi during the 2004 and 2009 polls.
Who is to be blamed for sending Kalmadi to Parliament? It is primarily those who did not step out to vote and then those who felt he was the best candidate from Pune.
How much longer will the Indian middle class continue to endorse online petitions or forward chain mails from the comforts of their home or office rather than get down to voting during the elections? Kejriwal deserves our support because this is what he is trying to change.
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Updated Date: Sep 22, 2012 17:33:22 IST