Parliament has precious work to do,no need to get so worked up over Team Anna
Whether or not Team Annas criticism of MPs is justified,is a matter of debate. Its possible to argue both that the criticism of legislators amounts to the denigration of Parliament and that it does not. There can also be more than one view on whether the language in which Team Anna has expressed itself against MPs and/or Parliament crosses the line of civility in public discourse. But even in as argumentative a democracy as ours,there should be little disagreement on one point: Team Anna has the freedom to express itself and the onus of large-heartedness is on Parliament. In all spacious democracies,the real test of freedom of speech is in cases where it has the potential to provoke and offend. Any attempt to squelch that freedom under parliamentary power and privilege will only cast unflattering light on the thin skin of the institution,not on the perceived impudence of the individuals who seek to challenge it.
Ever since the Anna Show first got off the ground in April last year,Team Anna has ranged against itself politicians,even the political class. While they may not have endorsed each and every position taken on Annas stage,at least in its first few months,people flocked to the campaign. So when Lok Sabha took up the Lokpal bill for discussion in December,it seemed to be a good day for parliamentary democracy. Team Anna may have shown impetuosity and lack of respect for representative democracy but MPs across parties had underlined the maturity and responsiveness of Indias parliamentary system by opening the doors of the House to Team Annas central concern. It was perhaps no coincidence that the mobilisation organised at the same time in Mumbai as the parliamentary debate,failed to work up popular enthusiasms. Even though the bill passed by Lok Sabha failed to survive the unseemly midnight drama in Rajya Sabha,the image that lingered into the new year was that of a wilful band of crusaders whose agitation had taken on the hue of blackmail.
In its best version,the debate touched off by Team Anna was about the appropriate and effective institutional response to the malaise of corruption. By personalising it obsessively,and by placing its own political peeves at the centre,it frittered away its cache of popular sympathy. Now Parliament must not make the same mistake. The challenge of containing corruption demands the attention of the House and this may or may not be answered by the Lokpal bill. MPs must get down to the job at hand instead of wasting precious time by talking about themselves.