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

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