WHO is running this country? Sonia Gandhi? Rahul Gandhi? Kapil Sibal? Manish Tiwari? P Chidambaram? Ambika Soni or can it be the Sub-Inspector of Police, Delhi? Events in the last few weeks have shown a remarkable lack of authority in Delhi. Sonia Gandhi has been hospitalised. Rahul Gandhi, the putative Prime Minister has been struck dumb. His mother’s health understandably has been affecting him. No more uninspiring a speech was ever made from the ramparts of the Red Fort than the one made by Dr Manmohan Singh on August 15.
And Messers Sibal, Chidambaram & Company have made fools of themselves in the way they handled Anna Hazare and his Team. What prevailed was Arrogance and utter lack of common sense. It is clear that the UPA government had no idea whatsoever of public sentiment. It has been out of touch with Reality. It obviously did not realise that by arresting Anna Hazare it had touched a raw nerve. The spontaneous upsurge across the country is testament to that fact. The revolt – totally non-violent – spread across time and space, class, caste, creed and community. To limit the public angst strictly to the Middle Class is not to understand the depth of anger and frustration the country has been undergoing in the last six decades, affecting people at all levels.
Let this be clear: whatever any poll may have said in the recent past – and one suspects whether we are these days getting like paid news, paid polls as well – the time has come for mid-term elections. As Oliver Cromwell told the Rump Parliament in 1654, “It is not fit that you should sit here any longer… you shall now give place to better men – in the name of God, go!” The issue is no longer just one of corruption. It is one of unfitness of the Congress-led UPA to govern. It has shown itself to be unworthy to rule this great and magnificent country.
The fake arguments produced by the likes of Chidambaram that Parliament is supreme and cannot be challenged is pulling the wool over innocent eyes. Parliament is a weapon. And is entirely at the mercy of the majority party or coalition in power. Parliament can be manipulated as has happened in the past to the shame of the nation. Much depends upon who is in power. Can one explain, for example, who authorised spending Rs 151.28 crore on ten flights by Air India to ferry VIPs and VVIPs during 2010-2011? Why, pray, were those flights organised? Where was the urgency? And may one know who the VIPs and VVIPS are who took the flights? One remembers what the Mahatma wrote way back in May 1939 about corruption. Gandhi then said that he would go “to the length of giving the whole Congress a decent burial, rather than put up with the corruption that is rampant”. Such a burial seems called for now. The Congress is unfit to rule.
The Mahatma had wanted the Congress to dissolve itself immediately following independence on the grounds that its purpose had finally been served and it is in the fitness of things for a new and wholly different Congress to come to life. As on many other issues the Congress refused to oblige. Some twenty seven years later Jayaprakash Narayan, fed up with Congress rule was to call for “total revolution”, claiming that “Indians are wracked by hunger, price rise and corruption”. The same tyranny the UPA government unleashed on Anna Hazare was unleashed by Indira Gandhi on Jayaprakash. What is novel about the current scene is that the non-violent revolt has spread throughout the length and breadth of the land. It is a credit to the people that they only waved flags and not sticks and stones. Jayaprakash had called for a revolution in utter frustration.
Anna Hazare’s demand is modest and more specific. He only wants strong steps to be taken to control running corruption. The tragedy is that even that was unacceptable to our heartless rulers till they had finally to be shown their place. The absence of Sonia Gandhi only complicated matters. No one seemed to be in power to offer leadership. It was apparent almost right from the start that there was a rift within the Congress with leaders at loggerheads with each other. Pranab Mukherjee, unquestionably the oldest and most experienced among all his colleagues was noticeably staying aloof from all the goings-on, though later he attended a meeting summoned by the Prime Minister along with AK Antony and was later named as an envoy to the Hazare team.
What we have noticed in the past few weeks is the validity of the old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is not just a cliché. It is the plain truth as everybody has found out. Every one is agreed that the irresponsible arrest of Anna Hazare not only was legally untenable and politically a gigantic folly, as the former Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabjee put it, but was a show of blatant power in utter disregard to likely consequences. Those who exercised it and helped bring the government to its knees must be shown the door, and that would include P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni and Manish Tiwari. Not only was their arrogance so evident but so was their lack of understanding of the public pulse.
In part one has only to blame technology. Ministers, including the Prime Minister, seldom go round the country to get a feel of national sentiment. They are imprisoned in their self-made cocoons and are fed information by bureaucrats who are even more distanced from grim reality. If Ministers at all travel, it is to distant and exotic lands at the cost of the public exchequer. If, for example, Dr Manmohan Singh had travelled within India in a fraction of the time he had spent in going abroad, he would have been a wiser man.
Delhi is not India. As matters stand now, the UPA government, but more especially the Congress has lost public trust. The way it has treated the Hazare episode has taken away its legitimacy for all times. It can continue to rule, considering how adept we are to quote the Constitution and rules and regulations, but its irrelevance is there for all to see. The least that it can do to gain a friendly clasp is to get rid of those who brought it to shame and the nation itself to the edge of disaster. India will survive. Corruption itself may or may not be totally eradicated but for raising it as a national issue with such fantastic and unforeseen results one has to remain eternally grateful to Anna Hazare. In this he has surpassed both the Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan, for which, praise be.