Anna saheb,I have known of your good work in Ralegaon Siddhi for the past 30 years. One has the utmost respect for Gandhians who still try to live by Gandhian principles. One such person,you,today leads the movement that first brought a handful of Magsaysay award winners together to support Kiran Bedis legitimate but unsuccessful mission to be appointed Chief Information Commissioner,in the interest of RTI activists. It has now become a movement fuelled by pent-up anger about corruption.
However,there is an issue that needs to be highlighted: People from all walks of life are searching for any kind of way at all to end corruption. As the government needs to listen to the message of the public,you too need to listen to a crucial aspect of the message: they are not fighting in support of your specific Jan Lokpal Bill,they are supporting your fight against corruption. One does not automatically translate into the other. May I humbly suggest that to make the government more flexible,your team show some flexibility too?
Your spokespersons need to explain why they cannot pressure individual MPs further,as well as political parties and the parliamentary standing committee,to persuade them to adopt your propositions and place amendments accordingly. It is wrong to arrogate to yourselves the power of presuming your bill is the best solution and your methodology the only one leading to a satisfactory result. You need to explain whether a fast to gather crowds is more important than continuing meetings with those who represent the political system across the board to pave the way forward. If your group sets itself up as superior to any politician or party,you may go down the wrong road.
Everyone wants a strong Lokpal bill. Both the government draft and yours have many flaws. The collective ego and obstinacy of your team should not get in the way of creating a draft that has been further modified by an additional set of wise minds with as much integrity. They can be from amongst the judiciary (if Prashant Bhushan will permit),the bureaucracy (if Kiran Bedi will permit),other eminent public activists (if Arvind Kejriwal will permit) and political party representatives (if the entire team permits). Currently,your moves seem to be more populist than reasonable,while the governments are more bureaucratic than political. Neither will get us anywhere.
Clearly there is no way the Jan Lokpal Bill is going to take the place of the CBI,CVC and other such agencies. Is your team not prepared to accept an option of asking for a totally independent CVC and CBI,apart from a modified but effective bill? Why not do credible (even radical) things with institutions we already have,rather than propose an outfit that appears to be a non-workable monster? If the public in support of your movement is not given options,it will be fooled into supporting your bill blindly. That is misleading,unfair,and arrogant.
There is a major question of inclusiveness,acceptability and credibility not being addressed here. I do not mean the credibility of your group or the government,but the credibility of those like myself,who have fought corruption all my life from inside a political party and outside for 25 years. Excuse me for personalising this,but it is merely as an example of what many honest political activists are feeling. Being in politics does not automatically mean one is dishonest. I have been entangled by the Congress/UPA government in a bogus corruption case in which the first hearing has been pending in a lower court for five years. The so-called incident took place 11 years ago. I thought of joining your platform at Jantar Mantar,but saw what you did to Uma Bharti and others. Michael Fernandes,brother of George Fernandes,whom you knew well,was not allowed on your platform in Bangalore,despite the known integrity of the Fernandes family. He is a 76-year-old former legislator,who still uses an auto-rickshaw or the metro while moving about. He fasted along with your group,but was not welcomed on the platform,although a well-known liquor company was distributing free mineral water there. Not terribly Gandhian,I would say.
Today I would like to be at the forefront of your campaign against corruption,but you would shun those of us who carry such bogus taints. Are you going to presume that all those accused by the Congress of corruption are indeed so? How sure are you of the credentials of those who form your crowds? How many of them have never given or taken a bribe? Can you certify to their integrity?
Your system of shunning people who are in political life from your stage,and accusing all politicians in Parliament of not wanting to accept your bill alone,is a dangerous form of de-politicisation. A non-political prime minister,and a non-political Sonia Gandhi,dealing with anti-politician groups like yours may leave an ugly,undemocratic land for vested interests to inhabit.
The writer is former Samata Party President