It took nothing short of a revolution to bring the UPA Government to its senses. Its continued rejection of popular demands like the Lokpal Bill and its determination to ignore issues emerging from exposure of scam after scam led to a major reaction from the newly emergent aspiring classes. The politics of patronage that had become the norm, with even the nation’s Prime Minister being an appointee of a political dynasty, has been shaken to the core by the massive defeat at the hands of the BJP in three major states, and also by a rank newcomer in the form of AAP in Delhi. All of a sudden, therefore, the Congress has become ‘sensitive’ to public opinion to the extent that it rushed through the much demanded Lokpal Bill. That the redoubtable Anna Hazare should single out Rahul Gandhi for praise must have warmed the cockles of Congress hearts and might further encourage it to go down the democratic path.
It is one of the ironies of politics that the very person who turned Hazare’s futile fasts into a potent political force should have been isolated in the general celebrations at the bill having been passed. Indeed, that is what the political establishment wants – the irreverent interloper be made irrelevant as soon as possible. What Kejriwal represents not only comes in the way of BJP’s bid for power, it is also the much sought after liberal alternative to the jaded Congress and the outdated Left. It is only natural for the educated middle class to be attracted to its ‘inclusive and participatory’ form of politics – an extension it might be said of JP’s philosophy on people’s power.
The civil society movement, as represented by Hazare and Kejriwal, is the reiteration of a fundamental fact of the Indian democratic system – no matter who constitutes the government with a majority in the Lok or Vidhan Sabhas, it is still without a majority of votes. The majority, by and large, will have given first preference to other parties. So, even if the less than fifty percent votes translate into a majority of seats in the House, the actually minority status should never be forgotten. It is when governments begin to think they actually have majority support, they make fundamental mistakes of judgment.
This arrogance was reflected during the Lokpal Bill debate in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, when quintessential politicians of this kind – Mulayam Singh and Sharad Yadav – went on and on about the ‘exalted’ status of the public representative and the ‘supremacy’ of Parliament. Indeed, what Mulayam found most galling was the fact that under the law, a lowly ‘daroga’ would be entitled to investigate high functionaries like him. That someone who has claimed all his life to represent ‘socialist’ thought and, more recently, the voice of the ‘other backward classes’, should lay claim to be ‘different’ to the ‘ordinary’ citizen is illustrative of the politicians’ mindset. The civil society movement has dealt a blow to this illusion and, if Mulayam is right, the enactment of the Lokpal Bill, has further institutionalised the constitutional principle of equality of all under the law.
Even as politicians jostled to take credit for the bill’s passage, the AAP politicians remained in splendid isolation. People must take note of this mobilisation by mainstream politicians, united in the bid to preserve their turf. It is the AAP phenomenon that provides them the clout that has given them their new found importance. Kejriwal may eventually go the way of the rest of them, but the power always belongs to the people.