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Anna Hazare is no common dude

August 26, 2011 19:28 IST

'What does the poor common man do?' asks Brigadier Krishan Mehra (retd). 'He does not have the wherewithal to fight the system. Anna has provided this Aam Aadmi a ray of hope.'

In the India Against Corruption protests spearheaded by Anna Hazare, I am sick of hearing terms like 'Parliamentary Democracy', 'Elected Representatives', 'Constitutional Procedures' and so on, couched in legalese and technicalities, with an ill imagined scenario wherein it has been alleged that every Tom, Dick and Harry could hold the government to ransom.

Though I do agree with the sentiments expressed in the larger sense, what does the 'Aam Aadmi' do when the elected representatives do not understand the aspirations of the common man and what he has to deal with in his day to day existence.

Secondly, Anna Hazare is no common dude. He has a history of fighting for social causes affecting the common man. The eminence of awards he has been bestowed with bear testimony to his selfless service to mankind. In post Independent India, perhaps it is the second instance, after the JP movement, when the masses have rallied for a common cause, without affiliation to political ideology, caste, creed or social strata.

It is very well for the 'haves' and 'armchair critics' to eulogise ad nauseum the pitfalls of such protests, calling it blackmail/hard headed/undemocratic etc. Unfortunately they do not provide any solutions except 'dialogue', implying that all issues can be solved through this process.

I am in full agreement with this sentiment. However, the question which hits me is -- talk what, for how long, and what will be the end result. In so doing, we have gone through for over 40 years, with no achievement and nothing to show to appease the common man.

The common man's patience and endurance has not only been taken for granted, but his beliefs in the system trodden upon. It is very simple to say 'look within', considering that all of us are equally responsible for the rampant corruption.

The bribe giver is as bad as the bribe taker, but what does the poor common man do? He does not have the wherewithal to fight the system. He has to allude to the system for his survival. Anna has provided this Aam Aadmi a ray of hope, albeit with his fastidious stand against corruption, call it what you may.

Talking about democratic norms, I guess it may be prudent to understand the term 'Democracy' as is applicable to the current scenario -- desiccate it, see its various avatars and what it means to all.

One man's democracy may very well be the other man's anarchy. Does democracy imply -- elections every five years, elect your representatives and give him a carte blanche to do as the high command of the party concerned desires.

Does not this pattern smack of anarchy, with the party concerned being run by an all powerful individual, assisted by a coterie, with all decisions being taken and implemented under the garb of a 'whip'. Anyone who objects or dares a separate opinion is marginalised or shown the door.

The question I ask is -- 'Is this democracy or monarchy?'

Team Anna has been accused of 'arrogance'. I do agree, but with a caveat. Team Anna has shown arrogance with the belief that they have struck a chord with the masses and have been able to garner support from all quarters, in fact their arrogance is resonant with the loud voices of popular support.

On the other hand the ruling dispensation has shown arrogance which flows from power. These self-proclaimed benefactors of society have been so inebriated with the elixir of power that they have forgotten that they draw their sustenance from the masses.

Let us for a moment dwell on the electoral system in our great democracy. At the national level it revolves around two political ideologies -- the so-called secular UPA and the alleged right wing NDA, with the exception of the Left who had been marginalised in 2009.

Other regional parties have to affiliate themselves to the above stated power blocs, or become game changers/king makers with their next to nothing share of seats, which can tilt the thin majority any which way.

It may be politically correct to say that if the masses do not subscribe to the actions taken by the coalition/party in power they can be thrown out in the next election. But, I dare say, what is the alternative?

For the masses one dispensation governs for five years, after that the other dispensation continues to govern for another five years. In the process the marginalised Aam Aadmi continues to suffer. Is this democracy? Whatever happened to the term 'participatory democracy.'

One of the issues which made ample sense during the debates on television was Fali Nariman's understanding of the Constitution. He stated that the term 'We the People' precedes all other terms, whether they be 'Parliament', 'Legislature', 'Judiciary' et al.

I guess now is the turn to understand the oft used term 'elected representative'. To be elected it pre-supposes that the individual has to be offered a 'ticket/seat' by a political party. Who are the individuals who get the prized ticket?

Let us not fool ourselves; there are only four types of entries in this elitist circle -- lineage, patronage, money power and muscle power. The so-called 'Independent' will not be elected without the tacit support of the powers that be.

All, I repeat, All political parties have a similar pattern. No other illustration can be better than the fact that Dr Manmohan Singh lost the only election he fought for the Lok Sabha. As regards the Rajya Sabha, the only route is through political patronage, even for the reserved category. There are a few faces in Parliament that do not fit into the four categories. They are at best for the reserved constituencies, the faces to garner the reserved votes.

If this is the system, which I dare say it is, then the all pervasive argument thrown at the common man to join politics if change is desired falls flat.

Notwithstanding the above, I would like to state that I am a proud Indian and even more proud of our vibrant democracy. Wonder if Anna Hazare's movement, the various slogans on the posters, the strong views expressed, could have seen the daylight in any other country. However, the time has come for us to introspect and cleanse the system before it starts to rot.

In the current protest the youth brigade of nearly all parties and especially of the Congress were conspicuous by their absence. As the old Army cliche goes, youngsters are to be seen and not to be heard. In this case they were not even seen.

The only person who stood out was Jay Panda. Lastly, where was Rahul Gandhi? I am certain his mother's health may have been engaging his thoughts, and why not. All of us would have been affected in a similar way. How I wish he had said something. It would have gone down very well with the masses.

The people who stood out were Chetan Bhagat, Anupam Kher, Yogender Narain, Salman Khurshid, Arun Jaitley and a few others. The people who were a disaster were far too many and propriety demands that I do not name them.

Any guesses for the person who gets the wooden spoon? My view is that it would be a unanimous decision.

Krishan Mehra retired as a brigadier from the Indian Army.

Brigadier Krishan Mehra (retd)