Home > India, Politics, Social Trends > Anna dictates to Indian Polity – & the Voter

Anna dictates to Indian Polity – & the Voter


When a lightweight like Anna Hazare starts dictating terms to Indian polity, the issue is no longer the Indian Parliament. It is the irrelevance of current political leadership.

India's bankrupt polity is allowing Anna Hazare to take the high ground - and get away with cacophony as agenda and ideology |  Cartoon by Manjul; source & courtesy - manjul.com | Click for source image.

India's bankrupt polity is allowing Anna Hazare to take the high ground - and get away with cacophony as agenda and ideology | Cartoon by Manjul; source & courtesy - manjul.com | Click for source image.

The Great Disconnect

No Indian political party has won a majority in the last 30 years based on merit. Not after Indira Gandhi’s win in 1980.

This is all the more remarkable as it takes just 15 crore votes to win a majority. From more than 70 crore voters. The size of the electorate in the last two elections has grown to 71.4 crore eligible voters (2009), up 6.4% (4.33 crore) from 2004. The number of votes polled increased to 41.72 crores against 38.75 crores in 2004.

Voting percentages have come down by 25% – from nearly 80% in 1960’s to around 55% now. Though improbable, lower voter turnouts could also be due to the better enrollment – compared to previous elections. Does this mean a disconnect between Indian leadership and Indian voters?

Or more ominously, between the political system and its users.

It is rather interesting to note how the Left players are trying to take centre stage, as they are losing relevance and votes across India.  |  Cartoonist - Ajit Ninan; Posted On Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 05:20:44 AM; source & courtesy - mumbaimirror.com  |  Click for source image.

It is rather interesting to note how the Left players are trying to take centre stage, as they are losing relevance and votes across India. | Cartoonist - Ajit Ninan; Posted On Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 05:20:44 AM; source & courtesy - mumbaimirror.com | Click for source image.

Featherweight Champ

In such a vacuum, a light-weight like Anna Hazare has become the ‘conscience’ of India.

Anna Hazare’s empty idea of using super-policemen, raises an important question.

Who will guard the guards?

Anna Hazare has camouflaged his Talibanic idea of punishment, prisons, flogging by using Indian props like anshan (fasting) and satyagraha (protests).

And using a huge poster of Gandhiji as backdrop.

Going in … or coming in?

An Indian political analyst, draws interesting parallels between JP’s movement of the 70s and Anna’s protests now (highlights extracted below).

Similarities apart, there are big differences, too.

For one, JP’s movement was rooted in a stagnant Indian economy, recovering slowly from the depredations of the British Raj – unlike India of today, which is a more robust economy. Without contest or argument.

For another Indira Gandhi dominated Indian politics – like no one does today. BJP and Congress are at parity today – unlike in the 70’s. In fact, at the State level, BJP is today a stronger party than the Congress.

BJP is jobless after the 'Anna-baba" combo became the main opposition - feels cartoonist Ajit Ninan  |  Posted On Friday, June 03, 2011 at 06:06:10 AM in mumbaimirror.com  |  Click for source image.

BJP is jobless after the 'Anna-baba" combo became the main opposition - feels cartoonist Ajit Ninan | Posted On Friday, June 03, 2011 at 06:06:10 AM in mumbaimirror.com | Click for source image.

JP, as a leader cut his teeth against the British Raj – and steeped in the development of Indian polity and power systems. Unlike Anna Hazare, who is greenhorn. Ideologically or otherwise.

And that is one thing that puzzles me.

Why is a politically strong party like BJP, trying to find shade under Hazare’s banner?

Now for the similarities.

Anyone watching the one day fast of Anna Hazare on Sunday would have been struck by the image of him sitting on the dais with prominent politicians around, as if he was holding a darbar.

Flanking him, on either side, were two senior politicians from polar opposite ends of the ideological spectrum: Arun Jaitley of the BJP on his left and Brinda Karat of the CPI(M) on his right. Other politicians, such as Sharad Yadav, A.B. Bardhan, Yerran Naidu all became just supporting cast in this theatre.

Some of those who have long memories about the Indian political scene, however, will not be particularly shocked, or even surprised. We have been here before. In 1977, after the lifting of the Emergency, both enthusiastically joined the campaigning against Indira Gandhi. The CPI(M) never formally merged with the Janata Party, but were willing followers of Jayaprakash Narayan, who was the mentor and guide of the Opposition.

Indira Gandhi’s suspension of democratic and fundamental rights for a year and a half had traumatised the country and when the elections were announced, all that suppressed antipathy burst forth. The people were not so much supporting the newly formed Janata Party but opposing her and her son. Jayaprakash Narayan, with his saintly image of being above mere party politics, emerged as the spearhead of the anti-Congress movement and helped form the Janata Party, consisting of socialists, Jan Sanghis and disgruntled Congressmen. The CPI(M) had a lot of misgivings about both JP and the Janata Party, but such was its hatred of Indira Gandhi that it went along.

That Opposition unity did not last long — the inner contradictions were just too powerful — and the Janata Party government collapsed two years later, paving the way for the eventual return of Indira Gandhi. But the concept of the joint, anti-Congress opposition had taken root.

Exactly 10 years later, the CPI(M) and the BJP got together again. They formed the two crutches of support to V.P. Singh who had walked out of the Congress. His agenda was also corruption-related, since the Rajiv Gandhi government was being accused of receiving kickbacks in a defence deal. In his rallies, he used to pull out a piece of paper and proclaim that he had the number of Rajiv Gandhi’s secret Swiss account where the kickbacks were deposited. The gimmick worked with the crowds, but when it came to voting, Singh’s Janata Dal got only 143 seats compared to the Congress’ 197. Rajiv Gandhi declined to form the government and with the help of the BJP (85) and the CPI(M) (33) and others, Singh became the Prime Minister. His government too fell after a year.

In both the above cases, the central anti-Congress figure — JP and Singh — had a few things in common. Both appeared Gandhian, in their demeanour and body language. Both were regarded as clean and both were seen as uninterested in political office and the loaves and fishes that come with it. JP had never contested an election and Singh, though a politician, managed to carve out an aura as being above the common fray. Indeed, soon after he was invited to form the government, when the Janata Dal met in the Central Hall of Parliament, he proposed the name of Devi Lal as the Prime Minister. India loves those who spurn power — they may harbour ambitions, but these ambitions should never be publicly aired. Singh became the hero of the moment.

Mr Hazare, too, fits that mould. He is a social worker who appears to have “Gandhian” traits — simplicity, no apparent lust for power, a willingness to fast etc. He has never stood for elections. He speaks in moral aphorism. The optics are also Gandhi-like: see him sitting at Rajghat, alone in his struggle. It is made for television. Never mind if he proposes public flogging of those who drink alcohol or is prone to the occasional gaffes; his followers don’t care. It is also quite possible they agree with him and his worldview wholeheartedly.

The fragmented Opposition, which finds it difficult to stick together and take on a government even as incompetent as this, has latched to him as not merely a mascot but also the man who will show the way. The BJP has not been able to put the UPA on the mat, but it has the cadre and the organisation skills; the CPI(M) is shaken by the drubbing it got but it has workers. Mr Hazare suits them both.

Who can forget BJP president Nitin Gadkari asking Mr Hazare to lead so that his party can follow? There is a good chance that some of the smaller parties, such as the Janata Dal (United), Telugu Desam Party and even the Akalis have misgivings about him and his programme, but for the moment they are keeping their counsel. Sunday’s event was a good opportunity for them to come and attack the Congress and they jumped at it. It was like a pre-election rally, with Mr Hazare too going for Manmohan Singh’s jugular. Janata Party, Janata Dal, Jan Lokpal Bill; the broader agenda remains the same.

Major state elections are to be held in the coming year and soon after that preparations for the general election will begin. (via Everyone’s invited to Anna theatre | The Asian Age).


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  1. December 18, 2011 at 4:42 am

    https://twitter.com/#!/G_puriJi/status/148175351246372864

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