Monday, October 17, 2011

So tell me, Who is Collapsing?

The campaign mounted by forces, homegrown and foreign, to discredit, damage and oust the UPA government at the centre has worked essentially along two planks: one, that the prime minister, not being his own man, has been prevented from carrying India into the next generation of “reforms” by Sonia Gandhi and her socialistic civil society spoilers; and, two, that, not doing so, it must be declared that this has been the most corrupt Indian government post-independence.

This essentially corporate agenda, buttressed by Rightwing Hindutva organizations, has received thumping support from India’s corporate electronic TV channels day in and day out, to a point where the hypocritical upholders of the freedom of speech have tended to stifle, hound, and heckle dissenting voices on a plethora of debates mounted speciously by the said channels.

The least thing attempted to be said on behalf of a malnourished, jobless, houseless, drinking-water-less, sanitation-less, health-care-less, redress-less India, some seven out of ten Indians if you like, has been sniggered at and dubbed a liberal-bleeding-heart conspiracy to keep the aspiring nation in the backwaters, tantalizingly out of reach of its superpowerly destiny.

And as in the history of Europe preceding the second world war, corporate fascism in India found over the months that “corruption” was that one slogan and platform to which all and sundry, including the habitually corrupt, could be drawn, followed by a sleight-of-hand that declared corruption to reside only and exclusively within the one ruling party! Which, it stood to reason, then needed to be dethroned in the “national interest” long before its mandate ends in 2014.

(Look at what is being said at “occupy wall street,” that what ordinary Americans are now fighting is not capitalism but corporate fascism, since that thing called “competition” has long been hounded out of capitalism by fascist banking and financial institutions in favour of monopolistic loot, all willy nilly buttressed by the capitulation of a so-called democratic state in favour of bailing out not the people but the banks and the corporations.)

Along this route, some stunningly anarchist elements and staunchly fascistic espousers of a militarist state have seemed to hold hands in a marriage of convenience. Alas, all too short-lived, as is already evident.

Thus, it has been dinned into us how the UPA is all set to collapse not because of any putsch against it from the outside but because of the weight of its own contradictions and cross-purposes, and most of all by its irredemiably corrupt character.

Does it matter that this may be the first Indian government since Nehru’s demise to be in the process of carrying out a multi-faceted legislative agenda to curb and punish corruption, both among the political class and the bureaucracy? This includes electoral and land acquisition reform, reform in the existing modalities of assets ownership and sale and purchase of properties, reforms in the judicial arena, including, much as it must hurt, the clandestine world of corporate bonanzas. Even, perish the thought, a look at the phenomenon of “paid news” which bespeaks the double-talk of sections of the media on the subject of corruption. Add to that a whistleblower’s protection legislation now also on the anvil. However reluctant these exertions may be thought to be, they far outstrip anything that the erstwhile NDA government ever conceived or did when it ruled India (1998-2004).

It is also good to remember that it was the UPA regime that gave to the country its first Right to Information Act — one that has become more than a headache to the government and its agencies. A fine example of how measures taken to consolidate democratic legitimacy often redound on the heads of those that take such measures, but advance democracy in relentless ways.

Alas, unlike emperor Ashok, who slaughtered hundreds of thousands at Kalinga but then has come to be eulogised for some two millenia as the apostle of peace, the UPA regime remains vulnerable to an opposition onslaught that is determined to see that the Manmohan Singh government is remembered for the scams that have come to light and not for its unprecedented anti-graft legislations, even as it remains loyal to a class base that disallows any real transfer of wealth or economic and administrative empowerment to democractic formations like the Panchayats or Gram Sabhas at the rural grass roots.

And yet, already it seems that whereas the UPA may or may not be collapsing under its own weight of alleged perfidies, the concatenation of false prophets who have been at the forefront of the putsch against the UPA government may be unraveling, as sundry hypocrisies and attempted joint fronts are shamed and revealed in the light of public glare.
Take a peek.

Advani’s “Anti-Corruption” Toyota Binge

Such is the state of cohesion and moral clarity within the BJP that from day one whisperings began to be heard that LK Advani’s setting out had less to do with an anti-corruption obsession, more with confronting the RSS and his party with a fait accompli: like it or not, he is seen to be saying, I am still the best bet you have for prime ministerial placement.

And much as you might think that boor in Gandhinagar to be the works, and much as I might be obliged to him for my electoral existence, and much as I might publicly defend him against his own dark deeds of 2002, you and I know that he is viewed with fear and trembling both by his own peer group within the party, and by all those Indians who feel any allegiance to India’s secular and constitutional democracy.

Had Advani’s been a statesmanlike crusade against corruption, might not he have started his peregrinations from the state either of Karnataka or Uttarakhand, —states where his own party and governments have been upto their eyelashes in corruption and loot? Indeed, as I write, news comes that the erstwhile chief minister of Karnataka, name of Yeddyurappa, is playing hide and seek with the police who are after him with a warrant of arrest, all bail having been denied.

Think that India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is on record as having once admonished the electorate in a segment of Madhya Pradesh not to vote for his own Congress candidate because the said worthy was corrupt! You better believe it.

There was an honest statesman, worthy of emulation. But as we said, having spawned and indulged massive scams during the NDA regime (1998-2004), a corporate-loving, market-fundamentalist party like the BJP (with its canny mercantilist electorate base among the trading classes whose moneys are but rarely accounted for, gigantic inner pockets, and sundry hiding places, including in holy sanctum sanctorums, private and public), Advani’s protestations on behalf of a clean and accounted-for national life convince few.

And, as it has turned out, his contrived pieties on behalf of an anti-corruption awareness campaign—in pitiful and redundant imitation ot Hazare’s exertions-- have taken only a day to crash at the hands of his own BJP-led corrupt government in Madhya Pradesh.

In the city of Satna where his thinly-attended Toyota arrived on October 13, at a press conference organized on his behalf a day earlier, envelopes were distributed among the reporters/journalists present with currency notes worth Rs 5001000, tucked inside each envelope!

Some comment that on the fraternity of journalists who, even as they never fail to fulminate against corruption, seem quite used to these tokens of admiration. One journalist, however, there was from the Hindi daily, Nai Duniya, who raised the shout, and went on to report the news in his paper. Kudos to him, we say.

But, so much for Advani’s and his party’s claims on behalf of probity. Clearly, from here on, despite the silence that the tv channels might visit upon this episode that shows the emperor without clothes, the truth is out; the Toyota may lumber on, but as farcically as a man on one leg might pretend to race on two good ones.

Team Anna and RSS

Good man with simple personal habits and requirements is Anna Hazare. And a man who clearly can go without food for some length of days. But once having served in the army, he does seem to have internalized a militarist-disciplinarian paradigm of “nationalism” which, altogether, fits rather well with the preferred coordinates of the RSS view of things.

Thus, his allegiance is to a state of his imagining rather than to the institutions of Indian democracy as these have evolved over time and through trial and error.

And, from what we have seen, the state of his imagining may be nothing like Gandhi’s paradigm of gram swaraj wherein hardwork, secular humanism, and intellectual tolerance rule the day. And where punishments are not punitive, as in Anna’s Ralegan Siddi, but ethically self-interrogative.

How inevtitable then that Prashant Bhushan’s anti-centrist, anti-nationalist predilection, and a rather anarchist favour of atomist democracy with no need of a state (a predilection that I am unable to subscribe to, although from axes of analysis entirely different from Anna Hazare’s preferences) should have come into stark contradiction with the loadstar of “team Anna.” And, might I guess, with the preferences also of a Kiran Bedi or an Arvind Kejriwal. Even a Santosh Hegde. None of them might endorse Prashant Bhushan’s thing about Kashmir, or about his view generally of the Indian democratic system.

And then to impose on all members of “team Anna” an anti-Congress political agenda. A justice Hegde whose most nascent experience of corruption has had to do with the corruption of the BJP government in Karnataka where he, as the Lokayukt, gave a stunning indictment of the Yeddyurappa ministry, could hardly be expected to swallow the politics that only the Congress is the true home of all corruption. Thus his predictably principled dissociation from that politics.

And what of Anna himself? Having clearly received support from the RSS, on record through letters, and visibly on the ground, what a bind he is in, with the Chanakya of the Congress party asking all the inconvenient questions with uncanny insistence. For example, why is Anna shy of acknowledging RSS support? Anna knows he is damned if he does, and he is damned if he doesn’t. Thus, what better strategy than a “maun vrat.”

Speak not at all, lest you speak that which you should not. Having earlier said that the Chanakya is saying all this inorder to defame him, and that he should be sent to a mental asylum, Anna can hardly be in the good books of the RSS any more; after all, why should he, or anybody, think that any associaltion with the RSS is a matter of defamation?

Indeed, the latest statement issued by Suresh Joshi of the RSS (who had earlier sent Anna a letter of support) is expressly filled with hurt at Anna’s seemingly disingenuous attempt to disown that association and support (see The Hindu, 16th October). It is of course for the RSS to ponder why even such social activists as are closely linked to the organization or to its thinking find it hard to acknowledge that linkage.

Then there is the more considered criticism: Anna seems to think that anyone who questions the Jan Lokpal Bill is ipso facto in favour of corruption; and hence deserving of harassment and ostracisation. Or that, Parliament being chokeful of the corrupt, must yield its processes, prerogatives, constitutional rights to “people’s” wishes. Further question as to who are the “people” draws hardly any more considered analysis from Anna, although Dalit, Muslim, Backward Class organizations—some three fourths of Indians—came out openly to hold that Anna’s disregard of Parliament betrays essentially a Brahminical impatience with an institution that does not exercise its decisions with uncomplicated alacrity in favour of a favoured minority of Indians who have economic and social clout but scant political empowerment. More importantly, the only institution of State wherein these three fourths of Indians have any empowered presence.

Then, on the communal question: how does someone like a Mallika Sarabai who has been in the forefront of the resistance against Narendra Modi’s sectarian-fascist rule, and who has suffered for so resisting, swallow Anna’s espousal of Modi as a “development” icon without regard to his record as an unprecedented human rights violater? Or without regard, indeed, to the actual facts of his alleged record on “development” or incorruptibility, given that the CAG in Gujarat has found malfeasance to the tune of Rs.26,000/- crores attributable to his government? Not to speak of all the skeletons, literally, that keep tumbling out of the Macbeth-Modi closet? Even as other member or two of Anna's team might in their heart of heart share some of Modi’s settled prejudices against Muslim Indians.

So there are contradictions under the visible weight of which both the BJP and “team Anna” seem to be collapsing, while Sonia Gandhi’s Congress party carries on quietly and without fuss.

If only the forces on the Left would come boldly forth on behalf of the lesser evil for the time being.

Badri Raina

1 comment:

വര്‍ക്കേഴ്സ് ഫോറം said...

The campaign mounted by forces, homegrown and foreign, to discredit, damage and oust the UPA government at the centre has worked essentially along two planks: one, that the prime minister, not being his own man, has been prevented from carrying India into the next generation of “reforms” by Sonia Gandhi and her socialistic civil society spoilers; and, two, that, not doing so, it must be declared that this has been the most corrupt Indian government post-independence.