Column: BJP cheers Annas jeers

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | Updated: Dec 13 2011, 09:02am hrs
Sunday afternoons debate on the Lokpal Bill, by Team Anna, opposition parties and some other civil society bodies, made for riveting television. For a viewer demographic fed on reality shows and sansanikhez khulasas, the level and tone of the debate was a welcome step up in the IQ stakes. Serious issues were being debated and a more or less quiet audience was listening.

What also unfolded were a series of very disturbing portends for the future, some hidden in the meta narrative of the event and some blatantly obvious. Lets start with the blatantly obvious. Team Anna began as an apolitical civil society movement agitating for a long-delayed anti-graft law. The middle class, in particular, after the first flush of reform-induced prosperity, supported this movement as they saw the government stagger under the taint of one scam after another and accusations of rampant crony capitalism.

After lambasting the entire political class in May and August, Team Anna campaigned in a bypoll against the Congress, and finally in December decided that some politicians at least were worth talking to and invited them for a public debate. So, Team Anna goes from a position where all politicians are corrupt, to just the Congress being corrupt and, finally, after yesterdays pronouncements by Anna himself, that Rahul Gandhi is the fount of corruption.

What it does not remain is an apolitical movement. If Team Anna has moved closer to a certain set of politicians, opposition leaders too seem to have shed their misgivings about what they earlier perceived as an encroachment of their jurisdiction and have decided to ride the gravy train of an anti-graft movement. Quite in the manner of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement being led by sadhus and sants in its infancy and later getting the BJPs backing at the partys Palampur executive.

The denouement of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, however, is the subject of a whole new debate, best not got into just now.

After playing hide-and-seek over whether or not Team Anna enjoyed some political support, it is now quite clear that this is a political movement.

While this in itself will lead to some disillusionment, it only goes to prove that, in a democracy, nothing is apolitical. What is insidiously dangerous is the fact that the debate may legitimise, to some extent, the demand that legislation be debated on the streets. Can that really be done If so, do we really need Parliament Opposition leaders felt the sting of this style when they were booed for straying away from Team Annas line. AB Bardhan couldnt resist saying that he was not there to agree with every punctuation mark set out by Team Anna. But, unfortunately, Mr Bardhan, the crowd gathered there thought precisely that. And that is the danger with debating legislation on the streets, not in Parliament under the benign eye of a Speaker chosen from among equals.

The Lokpal Bill will be tabled next week. It may very well get passed in Parliament, marking a victory for Team Anna, whichever way you look at it. For politicians who are hitching their wagon to Team Annas caravan, however, it will be time to reflect on the ultimate Gandhian conundrum: Do ends truly justify the means

The process of legislation is as important as the Bill, has it been a moral journey so far

nistula.hebbar@expressindia.com