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Not politicians, but vocal critics find resonance

March 28, 2012 12:33 IST

What Arvind Kejriwal or his other colleagues say finds resonance. It cannot be dampened. Now it has come to pass that people do not have to prove that politicians and politics are dirty; the latter have to prove that they are not, says Mahesh Vijapurkar.

The Lok Sabha could have called the entire Team Anna, especially Arvind Kejriwal to the bar of the House and punish them. It would have required a privilege motion, referring the charge to a committee, which in turn would have its sittings and then recommend the retribution.

But that is not what the politicians wanted for it would have consumed time and what they may have wanted to do would have lost its sting. By the time the penalty was announced, the issue could well be so much in the past that the purpose would have been entirely lost. In the present raucous debate about the morality and venality, they just wanted to score a point and scoot.

They apparently wanted to get off the front pages of newspapers and prime time of news television. The more belligerent among the politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav wanted bitter medicine to be administered but failed to carry conviction with their peers for the reasons I cited. Others did not want a long engagement on this issue.

What transpired on Tuesday was a bid to hit but not wound the uncaged tigers who can be murderously pointed in their criticism of the political class though it seems to the latter that Team Anna was unfairly generalising and heaping abuse on the politicians. They are also aware that public sentiment is not exactly benign towards the politicians.

Targeting Team Anna more viciously than merely expressing a sentiment, issuing a reprimand, say it was 'Unwarranted and unacceptable" perhaps indicates some maturing of thought and debate in the Lok Sabha but it is willingly conceding that the political class has been put on the back foot. Any sharper response would have been, metaphorically, throwing a stone at the porcupine; its response can only be stinging.

People may continue to routinely go and vote -- only about half the entitled population does that, anyhow -- but the political class is no more the darling of the masses. The masses may their uses but do not figure anywhere at the top in the arrangement we call democracy. The political class has to be reckoned with to meet a formality and in the bargain, so far, allowed the latter to run amok.

The MPs seem to have sensed for they cannot get any lower in public esteem. Every single scam that surfaces -- be it 2G, coal, etc -- only shows how the political class has been allowing the country to be looted with impunity so far. To defend themselves in this environment calls for gumption. That, fortunately, appears to have been whittled down.

Look at the curious nature of events. What Kejriwal said was not kosher. But what was said by the character in the movie, Pan Singh Tomar, however, had passed the censor's scrutiny and said loud and clear every time the movie was screened; it is happening day in and day out across the nation. There are dacoits sitting in Parliament was what the script had the character say. So what was wrong, even if Kejriwal was overstating his angst?

Kejriwal, and in the past Om Puri, and several others, had said much the same which came from distrust of the politicians who have not only subverted democracy to meet their ends but also co-opted the bureaucracy into the venality. They have usurped the right to run astray all the time and deny the public to voice their anguish. Why should the people voice their opinion only through the vote?

People have found a voice and they want to use it. More the politicians protest that they are being unfairly targeted only rouses snickers among the people who, while rightly conceding that there indeed are exceptions, have had enough of the shenanigans. Every time a politician files an affidavit indicating the wealth he or she possesses, as required by the Election Commission, more convinced is the voter that it has been illegitimately acquired.

When assets are declared but the means of acquiring them are not put out in the public domain, and the rate of growth between two elections being phenomenal, the suspicions strengthen that there has been mischief at work. Many of the politicians have acquired more wealth during their tenures in office than they did before which enable the conclusion that politics ensure enrichment. So how to quell this doubt which is now morphed into a conviction?

The politicians, if they are clean and not merely clever, also ought to be stating their businesses and the business links, and subject themselves to the scrutiny. Their books are so blotted that they would hardly be able to carry conviction which in turn makes even an unsubstantiated allegation the truth for the masses. A mere thin skin leading to a sentiment from Lok Sabha means nothing to the people; what Kejriwal or his other colleagues including Anna Hazare say finds resonance. It cannot be dampened. Now it has come to pass that people do not have to prove that politicians and politics are dirty; the latter have to prove that they are not.

Mahesh Vijapurkar is a Thane-based commentator on public affairs.

Mahesh Vijapurkar