It may be too early to take stock of the repercussions and political costs of the midnight round-up of yoga guru Ramdev and his followers from the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi though the Congress must surely be conscious of the momentum its missteps have acquired. The chaos engendered is obvious. The first thing that the Central government must now do is call a session of Parliament. In the past two months the government has ceded all debate to street brawls. It has shown itself to be incapable of talking to the people of India on the issues raised therein. Parliament is its best option of commencing the conversation this country needs. It may be a noisy,heatedly contested affair,but a debate on the floor of the House is essential. A session should be convened immediately.
The first item Parliament must take up is the Lokpal bill. It is,for obvious reasons,the issue of the moment,and it is also necessary for Parliament to assert its central role in law-making. The bill must be debated on the floor of the House and widespread public discussion must be encouraged. Yet,in and of itself,it will not be enough unless the UPA signals a resounding end to the extra-constitutionalism thats brought things to this pass. Else,there is no reversing this situation where sundry activists with a few hundred followers can occupy a maidan in Delhi and arrogate to themselves the right to bypass the architecture of the Constitution and impose laws on this country. For this the UPA needs to squarely look at its original sin,the mandate given to the National Advisory Council to presume to dictate legislation to Parliament. The Anna Hazares and Baba Ramdevs have comprehensively demonstrated the untenability of picking favourites among civil society activists. Give your fellow-traveller an elected representatives power,and you also put that power within reach of anyone with an appetite for the theatrics of blackmail. This is not how responsible governance is conducted,and the Congress-led UPA should give up the illusion that the problem is elsewhere.
If the UPA is still unwilling to disband that extra-constitutional authority,the NAC,it must expand it. Allow the leader of the opposition and state governments to nominate members,too,so it can be transformed into a more broad-based consultative body. The government will have ample time to question itself on the role it played in the Ramdev spectacular. But the slide towards chaos is steep,and it needs to be stopped immediately. If the government does not recapture credibility right away,then midterm elections are inevitable. Is that what it wants?