Victory to People, Victory to Parliament, Victory of Democracy

Now this was a real defining moment for our democracy. A people’s movement had forced an arrogant government to sit down and listen to the voices of the masses. It made the parliament to sit on a special session on a weekend to debate and discuss what the people wanted – which went on till late evening.

While on the one hand, the people of the country led by Anna Hazare  and India Against Corruption went on a peaceful protest within the constitutional framework there by upholding the values of the democracy and well utilizing the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution. On the other hand the parliament by unanimously passing a statement supporting the key points raised by this movement against corruption, proved it to the world that democratic institutions were still alive and kicking in India and were living up to the expectations of its people.

If the people take into their hands the rights of the parliament or that of its representatives – then that democracy becomes an anarchy. If on the other hand, the parliament or the government starts dictating terms to the very people who elected them – then it becomes tyranny and oppression. The happy ending of the current phase of the anti-corruption movement proves the maturity of the people of India as well as the parliament of India – who together ensured that this movement against corruption did not allow the Indian democracy to slip into either of these extremes. Which is a very good positive note to start with, to continue working on a grand Indian 2020 vision. If at all, all the political parties continue to work with such a deeper level of understanding as was visible today – “India Shining” will not remain a mere slogan.

Quite long back I had written an article on the radically different development models of India and China. Today after the special session of the parliament, when I sat back and read it again – what I had theorized then seemed to be taking place practically today. It is the people’s power or the empowerment of people in Indian democracy that makes India the “tortoise” that finally wins the race. Mahatma Gandhi had once said

My path definitely has delays in it, but it also definitely is – the winning path

And this was proved today, even though it tested everybody’s patience for 12 days. The people in power, some of whom were just the other day terming the masses agitating against corruption as “undemocratic mobs”, today passed a resolution accepting the “Will of the People”.

Rahul Gandhi’s speech which he read out on Friday was, considering Anna’s fast and the public anger, an unnecessary waste of precious time. He kept singing the same old tunes like  ”Parliament is supreme”, “this is a dangerous precedence”, etc. On the other hand, today’s statement by Pranab Mukherjee that “People are our Masters” definitely struck a chord with the masses. After all, there is a great difference between a “representative” of the people and a “ruler” of the people. Representatives have to live by the expectations of the people whom they represent, a ruler need not.

As Devinder Sharma put it across

Rahul Gandhi is the biggest loser. What he said yesterday in Parliament has been completely negated by today’s vote in favor of jan lokpal.

Yes, we do have issues with the parliament whose members like Raja, Kalmadi, Kanimozhi are all in jail on allegations of corruption. Over 150 of the 543 members in Lok Sabha have criminal cases against them. But yet today, it was a day in the parliament which showed that we have very able people and experts sitting there as our representatives who are open to inputs, pro discussions, willing to resolve issues, and bold enough to take stands. Which in itself is a very positive note to begin with.

Bad people get elected to parliament because of the good people who don’t go and vote.

Let us at least take pride in ourselves that so many good people are there in the parliament, and let us ensure that by voting in huge numbers in the future elections, we will send only more and more good people to the parliament. After all it is we who elect the parliament. Parliament represents our collective voting mindset.

Most importantly, if what took place today had taken place earlier, then there would have been no need for Anna to fast for so long, nor for the people to come out on the streets. The government being ill advised earlier (not sure who advised it so), unnecessarily had complicated the matters by taking unwise steps like trying to defame Anna, calling Team Anna Fascists and Maoists, by arresting Anna, by not providing a proper place to protest and fast, etc.

It was very clear from the different voices speaking from the government and by those opposing the movement that they were expecting the movement to fizzle away. Some were even comparing people to flock of sheep. Some said, the urban youth had come in large numbers because it was a “fashion” to do so! Some accused Anna of talibanizing India, while others said people are coming out just to get media attention. Some said, rural India is not involved in this fight against corruption.  Some tried to bring in caste and religion into the equation.

But inspite of all this – in recent times, and probably for the first time in independent India, this was one movement which united the whole nation irrespective of caste, religion or any other artificial divide. And we all should thank Anna Hazare for achieving that. He yet again proved the power of “One Person” – that one person whose voice becomes the majority.

There were minor embarrassing moments when some went overboard in their reactions. But considering the size of the movement, the people’s frustration with the system, the youth on the streets – it has to be appreciated that the movement was completely peaceful – and India has yet again shown it to the world how it can achieve silent revolutions without disturbing its social, democratic fabric.

The government did a lot of flips and flops, talked the language of ifs and buts, tried to use force, and what not. But finally the perseverance of Anna, the commitment of the people, the dedication of the Team paid off.

As Pritish Nandy said, UPA government kept proving what Groucho Marx once said

Politics is the art of seeking trouble, finding it, diagnosing it wrong, choosing the worst remedies.

Here is an excerpt from what Kuldip Nayar had to say on the issue

One thing that came out clearly from the brief exercise that I undertook was Hazare’s humility and the government’s arrogance. I do not know why it (government) believes that by running him (Anna Hazare) down it would be in a better position to deal with him.

First, the Congress party’s Young Turk, Manish Tewari, abuses him. He is followed by Home Minister P Chidambaram and Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal who do not use foul language, but make fun of Hazare.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was more cynical and characterises his methods as ‘misconceived.’ The prime minister should know that Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, went on indefinite fasts many times and offered satyagraha against the British rulers during the freedom struggle.

Nevertheless, better late than never, and today’s parliament session is a very good start. Let us keep the momentum on and hope that the parliament will pass a strong Lokpal bill. Not necessarily in exactly the same “format” as suggested in Jan Lokpal, but exactly in the same “spirit” as intended by it. The onus now lies on the Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Abhishek Manu Singhvi who has promised to come up with the final version within three months. A matter of co-incidence is that it was Singhvi’s father L. M. Singhvi who originally coined the term “Lokpal” way back in 1968.

The Jan Lokpal Discussion in Parliament

Parliament of India

The opposition leaders – Sushma Swaraj in Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha – spoke in support of the three key demands put forth by Team Anna which were

  1. Bring the lower bureaucracy employees under Lokpal
  2. Establish Lokayuktas at State Level similar to Lokpal at the Center
  3. Create a citizen’s charter to which public can go and submit their grievances

The opposition leaders in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha agreed that all three were important and valid issues and should be implemented as part of the Lokpal mechanism to address corruption. In fact without these said issues being a part of the proposed Lokpal institution, the Lokpal would be meaningless from the point of view of a common man. Not every common man will have issues only with Home Secretary in Delhi, or only with Central government employees. It is the corruption at much lower levels that matters a lot for the common man. So it makes one keep wondering about why government was reluctant to address these issues earlier.

Sushma Swaraj from BJP was humble enough in saying

I also hold (the earlier) NDA regime responsible for not being able to pass the Bill

Pranab Mukherjee from Congress also said

For 40 years, we could not pass Lokpal Bill, I accept lapse of our governments

Arun Jaitley made a valid point that the demand to give power to lokpal to tap the phones of ministers should be revisited, which was very logical. Prime Minister and other ministers even if accused of corruption, will be still having conversations related to national security issues and other sensitive matters, so it doesn’t make sense to give Lokpal the power to tap the phones of those holding such high offices.

There were other dissenting voices too, but on expected lines. Lalu Prasad Yadav accused the government of “violating” the parliament rules. Now whatever that means, he had his share of the freedom of expression.He also went on to say

This is all a creation of these NGOs – this so called movement will crumble once these NGOs stop supporting this

While Arun Jaitley, Pranab Mukherjee, Sushma Swaraj, Jyotiradiya Sindhiya, Varun Gandhi, Jayant Chaudhary etc raised the level of the debate – Sharad Yadav took down the entire debate to a low level – by bringing in things like caste, cracking jokes, blaming media etc. One of his statement goes as follows:

Anna is fasting for 12 days, there are many people in India who don’t have a choice but not to eat at least 1 meal of the day.

Now what on earth does that mean? I realized that I am not intelligent enough to analyze this statement and hence moved on.

But finally by passing unanimously the acceptance of the relevance of the key points raised by Team Anna, the parliament has handed over the victory trophy to the people of India.

For all Anna haters, wonder where they are now, who kept crying that a bunch of five people were holding democracy at ransom – did the parliament hold a special session today on a weekend just because a bunch of five people or some five thousand demanded it? Get enlightened. Democracy is all about people’s wishes. Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

For all those from the foreign media who mistook this to be an arab countries like revolution to over throw the government – all I have to say is, to sing these few lines from a bollywood song

Ham logon ko samaj sako tho samjo dilbar jaani

Jitna bhi tum samjo ge, utni hogi hairaani

kyon ki hum hai hindustani, kyon ki hum hai hindustani

Anna’s fast not only brought entire India united irrespective of caste, creed and religion, but also brought all major parties in the parliament together who spoke in the same voice, and the voice was in sync with what the people wanted to hear. So the parliament, people, parties all spoke in unison – a clear victory for India and its democracy.

As Harish Salve and Vinod Mehta put it across

 This is actually a unanimous sense of the house, better than a voice vote

Shekar Kapur had a very valid observation when he pointed out that

Anna’s greatest achievement is to show the people of India that they can take charge of their own destiny

Ram Jethmalali said

Today is the happiest day for Indian democracy

Will be a great moment to see Anna Hazare breaking his fast tomorrow. It was really bringing tears in one’s eyes to see an elderly honest person fasting for days together without bothering for his life, with all dedication for a better future of this country.

Kiran Bedi tweeted saying, Anna never breaks his fast after sunset and hence will be breaking the fast tomorrow (August 28 2011) at 10 am. What a great movement this has been, which made all Indians realize that, if spoken in unison, their voice will be heard in the corridors of power, loud and clear. Eagerly waiting for 10 am tomorrow.

As Arnab Goswami of Times Now put it across

Not a win for one side or defeat for other but an immense victory for the nation and democracy

Ending on this happy note,

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi and Eid Mubarak to all

Jai Hind

  • Prashanth

    Good article as always.There has been a lot of talk Parliament being supreme,people should not interfere with its working etc. But I always thought it is the people who are supreme in a democracy.The elected representatives are supposed to consider the majority public opinion in their constituency and go by that even if they personally disagree with it.

    Instead these politicians believe that during elections the people are supreme and after elections Parliament is supreme.Today once the politician gets elected they become representatives of their party leaders and follow their instructions.This is rule of party not Rule of the people.

    But if indeed the majority of the people want something from their representatives, why should they debate it in the Parliament?Are they more intelligent than the ordinary people?Even then they should do what the people want.Is it not what a democracy is?

    • Anonymous

      Very true. Infact the initial statements of Indian Constitution is that “We the People of India give ourselves this constitution” which then goes on to create parliament, ministers, judiciary, etc. So it is the people who really matter.

      • Prashanth

        There is however one more thing.. We are taught from childhood that ‘democracy is the best form of government’ ‘There is nothing that can match it’.'Don’t think there is anything better’ etc. But I think there are better forms of government than the present form.Democracy is a form of government created by people and is subject to defects.In companies we have good business models,software models etc. But after trial run we realize there are some defects and go back and improve upon them.Also some radical innovative models are sometimes even better.Same thing goes with the forms of government

        Consider this form of government– Instead of having bulky political parties why not have leaders like LK Advani,Sonia Gandhi etc stand as candidates for the post of Prime Minister.The people can directly vote for them.Better still we could invite applications for this post from the citizens.Based on screening them for leadership track record,no criminal cases etc. we could select the top 5 or 10 most eligible candidates.People can select the candidate who is most popular/likable for 5 years.He could then select experts from different sectors as ministers.Like Narayan Murthy as IT minister,Ratan Tata etc.He could hand pick distinguished people from different sectors as expert advisory group who could debate/discuss proposed laws.He can hand pick worthy local people for mayor/panchayats position in cities/villages who should interact directly with people and  pass immediate orders to solve their problems.He should have a citizens forum where people directly give ideas to the Prime Minister.The judiciary to oversee the constitutional validity of laws passed,Election Commission,Constitution and an ombudsman like Lokpal  will be there to check corruption etc all of them will be there.

        This form of government will cut flab,be efficient and agile.It will eliminate unworthy but popular people from getting elected.Also the people debating will be experts in their field.There is greater likelihood of better decisions.As it is today the party leaders only call the shots.Then why not have worthy leaders directly elected by the people.These leaders will keep a balance between expert opinion,constitutional provisions and people opinion.

        What do you think of this form of government?Do your foresee any defects?Is it not better than the present form?

        • Prashanth

          Hey just to clarify there will be no bulky Parliament in this form of government!!

        • Anonymous

          True Prashanth, if only we are able find good candidates. This is what the US presidential form of government is all about – people elect a president and he in turn selects his cabinet of experts in the field based on advise from other experts and so on.

          But such a government should also have proper checks to recall those who do not perform instead of having to wait for next five years. Also as you said no candidate with any criminal or corruption background should be ever allowed to contest. And citizens should be more actively participating for a democracy to really succeed, else it will become periodic dictatorship in the name of democracy.

          After all elected ones are representatives not rulers – so representatives should keep coming back to the people asking their opinion on every major decisions impacting the lives of those whom they represent.

          • Prashanth

            Yes the presidential form of government is somewhat better especially with regard to appointment of cabinet ministers.And I think discussions/debates about a bill should also be done by a team of experts not a Parliament.Parliament cannot consist of all experts in all fields,neither do they represent the people.They simply represent their parties.The best argument in the team of experts can be considered.

            With regard to direct democracy,I think the same problems appy.People are not experts in every field and may not give the best decisions.But in issues where the the citizens are passionate,I think a public referendum should be done.This will take care of discontent.

            • Anonymous

              Yes, that would really help – if major decision makers are experts in the field. In fact it would be the best approach in an ideal scenario.

              And in a true democracy, for issues related to public interests – like say whether to allow FDI in retail – public referendum should be a must – because finally it is the lives of common man that gets affected by such decisions.

  • Sudhakarraovc

    Kudos to Annaji!  Now the entire nation knew how tough is the fight against corruption.  Those who  declare themselves the protectors of the Parliamentary Democracy , themselves created hurdles in the fight against Corruption.  The time has  come, to realise the aspirations of Common man of India, and appreciate his struggle for survival in this biggest Democratic Nation.

    • Anonymous

      True, this movement has made the common man realize that his voice still “matters”

  • Sachin Thombre

    It is indeed a15th Aug moment for all of us now – on one hand, the euphoria of getting what “we, the people of India” wanted all along and on the other hand, its the moment, which if not planned and executed well, could lead us to decades of even more problems than before. This hard earned victory by the common man, should now become a eye opener to all the critics, lazy intelligentsia, and dynamic groups to come forward and make the best use of the 3 points accepted by the parliament. Lokayukta in Karnataka still had 1000s of cases coming to them every day but not being investigated for lack of resources,  evidences, permissions etc. The contents of Citizen charter shouldnt lead to unending debates and the corrupt babus, which were until now open and ruthless on their shares, should not be allowed find loopholes in the policy and use it to their advantage. 

    Anna’s decision to take a nation wide march is really a welcome move and shows that he has already thought of “what next?”. I am sure, while Team Anna has already thought of the next steps, each one of us have to take the responsibility of actively contributing to the next steps. 

    Gurudev, I urge, you put your thinking hat once again and come up with “what should Govt now do to make this victory a true success to all Indians”.  

    and btw, we are all very blessed to have a thought leader in you. All your thought provoking ideas, although extreme sometimes, have brought new dimensions to our otherwise linear thoughts.

    • Anonymous

      Very true Sachin. Unless and until a lokpal/lokayukta is established which can address the corruption at lowest levels which actually haunt the common man, the entire exercise will become futile. We need to be vigilant and keep the pressure on the government till the bill gets passed as a law. BTW the sense of parliament passed yesterday is not “Binding” on the committee on lokpal. So lets keep our fingers crossed.

      Anna was today talking about the need to electoral reforms and a “right to reject” option to the citizens. Incidentally Gujarat government had passed the right to reject bill twice, once in 2008 and then in 2009, and both the times it was rejected by the Governor of Gujarat and hence did not become a law. This makes one wonder, why?

      Come on Sachin, those are real big words for me – just another normal blogger who scribbles down his thoughts :) .  In fact I feel so blessed to be part of this timeline in which our country is undergoing such a great change for the good, with so many intellectuals around who are ensuring that our democracy doesnt become stagnant and static. It is a great samudra manthan kind of churning that is going in the country now.

      Sure, will definitely write on those lines about future actions required by the govt and parliament.

  • Vinay

    Did anybody notice that Rahul “Game Changer” Baba was absent in parliament yesterday during this historic debate after his flop “game changing” speech on Friday? So much so for his commitment to fight against corruption.

    • Anonymous

      Somebody was heard at Ramlila saying
      Desh ke Yuvan yahaan hai
      Rahul Gandhi kahaan hai?

  • I=Indian

    Anybody heard about Swami Agnivesh after that? He just wears hindu robes, but has always made anti-hindu statements. By his recent actions (see video below) he is now anti-people, after he criticized Anna’s fast in an alleged phone call with Kapil Sibal. He has criticized Amarnath yatra of Hindus. He claims to be member of Arya Samaj, but was expelled from the Arya Samaj in 2008.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8plWkPwdiQ

    • Anonymous

      That was a real shocker. Thanks for exposing this.

  • Abhijit Brar

    An Excellent Article, as always. Good work Gurudev.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Abhijit :)

  • Manoj

    Finally a Win for the majority of people of India

    • Anonymous

      True, this movement has shown the real power of the common man.

  • k p mohan

    I think we should not be too euphoric because my understanding is that the whole exercise is going to stir hornest nest in future. i am unable to fully recall, but just after emergency, one of those who was a dreaded mafia man in Mumbai, had sat on a protest and later even become an mp. he was also protesting on a cause that claimed to champion the cause of the poor and downtrodden. this was in the 70s. what is to prevent some politicians and others not doing a similar thing claiming to represent a cause that very well can be dear and near to the country. already there are reports which suggested that the anna hazare movement was funded by a foreign agency and it is available for all to study in google. one cannot forget that the protestors had scant respect for constitution and parliament, and went to the extent of claiming that india was anna and anna was india. if one were to recall the past, then this is not a trend to be euphoric about. second, kiran bedi, was waving the Indian flag and stating that those who did not support anna’s movement, were not ‘desh bakth’. you should also not forget that history has also seen such persons like hitler and mussolini.

    • Anonymous

      Well, how much attention and support did mafia don get, and who bowed to him and passed any bill or law? Its not that easy. Govt bent in Anna’s case because it saw his determination, people’s support, media support, support from other organizations, eminent persons, etc. Not everybody is going to get the same support if they sit on a fast, nor can everybody go on fast for so many days :)

      Which is that foreign agency? All the people on the streets were there because some foreign agency called them? Is the problem of corruption in the country an illusion? It was Congress spokesperson who first made an allegation of US being behind the movement, and then backtracked on his allegation. Why on earth would somebody fund this movement from outside, and even if they did what harm did it cause to Indian society? I have googled all news sites, not a single proof of any foreign hand.

      Who said protestors didnt respect constitution? The entire protest was peaceful, constitutional, law abiding. Unlike other protests by political parties which we have seen in the past – the people here came out on their own, there were no rasta roko, rail roko kind of things – no harm to public property, no violence. The protest ended as soon as parliament passed the resolution – so where is the question of violating constitution or disrespecting parliament. Infact the entire protest was to force parliamentarians to pass a law to eradicate corruption – not to take law into the hands of protestors to fight corruption. Protestors didnt say WE will go and punish the corrupt, they requested the parliament to pass a law which would then legally punish the corrupt.

      Most of the common men on the streets came out in support of the movement because it was against corruption, not all had read about janlokpal bill – so if you are not supporting a movement against corruption, then it means you are not interested in removing corruption from the society. It is one thing to have differences with janlokpal bill, and a completely different thing to not to support an anti-corruption movement.

      Finally, its too much to compare a peaceful movement on the path of non-violence with that of hitler and mussolini. When was the movement of hitler and mussolini peaceful, non-violent? Those were racially motivated movements, while this was for a social good. It becomes unwise on our part to compare violent and racially motivated movements of hitler and mussolini to peaceful, non-violent, movements for a social cause by people like Anna and Gandhi. Hitler and Mussolini assumed power based on their violent movements, Gandhi and Anna did not inspite of peaceful movements. That speaks volumes about the differences.