I am really surprised at the way people underestimate our leaders and administrators. These feelings are obviously fanned by the self-styled intellectuals of social media and the know-it-all reporters of the 24x7 TV channels. Since this write- up is based on the reactions of certain groups of people and media, I would use the term ‘intellectuals’ to denote the group in general, though use of the that term is not in any way referring to the intellectuals in the real sense of term.
I am not disputing the fact that there are reasons to be aggrieved or even angry at our political leaders, though I may not agree with all of those reasons. What I can’t understand is the contempt with which these intellectuals hold our leaders.
Until few years back, the fact that lot of our leaders were not highly educated was used to denigrate them. However, that does not hold anymore. The average education of our political leadership has gone substantially high- with our Prime Minister himself leading the pack. Now, the complaints have therefore, changed tack towards alleged lack of brain and smartness among our politicians! Intellectuals have commented on their ‘gross misunderstanding of the public mood’, their ‘potency’, their ‘bravery’, their ‘intelligence’ their ‘foolishness’ and what not!
Look at the reactions to the preventive custody of Anna Hazare. Preventive custody is something very commonly experienced by political activists in all parts of the country. It is a legitimate tool in the hands of Police to manage any potential crowd related issues. One may question the use of that tool in any particular case, depending on which side you are. But to hold that the political leadership erred or that they did it in panic etc is clearly underestimating the ability of our Government machinery.
Public memory is rather too short. Yet, we could not have forgotten the reactions to the unusually warm welcome and the subsequent eviction of Baba Ramdev. We were outraged; we said the Government is about to fall; we said the Ministers have lost it. Who had the last laugh? Today Ramdev is a fallen hero and is trying desperately to climb onto the Anna bandwagon.
Like one tweet said, “Government is testing our patience by changing stands all the time”. Yes, my friend, you are right. Government is testing the patience of the ‘revolutionaries’ with the firm belief that the outrage of the intellectuals and the stamina of the people on streets will not last for long.
Revolutions are conducted not by the Middle Class and intellectuals of internet, who have a lot to lose, but by the poor masses that have nothing to lose. Anna’s movement is still a movement of the educated, urban middle and upper-middle classes. Unless, it turns to a mass movement Government has nothing to worry. In any case, these intellectuals hardly go out to vote on the elections day. Government knows these people have their EMIs to pay, offices and colleges to attend, mobile phone and data card charges to pay. They cannot afford to be on the streets for a long time.
Government will start worrying if this turns into a mass Movement. When I say mass Movement, I do not mean accumulation of 100 or 200 people at isolated spots, to be focussed by the ever willing TV cameras; I mean the Movement in which that section of the society which has nothing to lose will dominate. It is only they who have the powers to bring down a Government. How does a Government ensure that a Movement does not reach that stage?
Simple! Government pre-empted the Movement, by detaining its top leaders. Now Government knows how deep this Movement is. It has drawn out the worst reactions and the outrage, with utmost finesse, by taking into custody and jailing of Anna Hazare, its mascot. Government has clearly measured its adversary by taking the couple of early blows. But nothing to rejoice there, for Government can now follow the remaining steps in its plan to quell this revolution, which at least some of them wanted to make the Indian spring! Surely they will have their contingent plans as well, in case the Movement get out of hands.
If anyone is thinking that Government did what it did, without tacit support from the opposition, I am ready to bet with him/ her on that. The reactions from the opposition are on the predicted lines- willing to hit but not willing to wound the Government. They all know what is at stake; the very survival of the parliamentary system and the representative democracy.
Political accusations will continue to fly. But the Movement in all its likelihood will meet the same fate as the candle brigades of post 26/11 at Mumbai. I hope the readers still recall the brave talks/tweets of the outraged intellectuals after that unfortunate incident? The Government and its security systems are still the same, yet we don’t see the candles anymore. Not even when Mumbai was rattled again from multiple bomb blasts!
Why Government is being stubborn in this case? In my opinion, it wants to call the bluff of the Civil Society. When Government allowed the previous Fast of Anna to take root at Jantar Mantar and had to concede the Joint Drafting Committee, it learned its lessons. It understood the danger in setting such precedents for future. Democracy can only function in an orderly fashion and not in Anna-rchy. If it becomes power to all, with no restrictions, it would become unmanageable. So Government has no choice but to quell the dreams of any revolution!!
Secondly, the Government knows very well that the general elections are still far away, in 2014. Even if Government make everyone happy in 2011 by conceding all the demands of Anna, the effect will not last till 2014. The chances in 2014 will be determined on the basis of what happens very close to the elections. Even in the opposition, the Members of Parliament will not be keen to face another election any time soon; and therefore no party will make any serious attempt to dethrone this Government. Government knows that in case of a serious threat, it can beg/borrow/steal and maintain its majority.
To conclude, you may love or hate your ministers and leaders; but do not underestimate them. Most of them are really capable and much smarter than us... the very fact that they have reached those positions and have managed to retain those positions proves that fact. Same applies for the bureaucrats. Each one has gone through the daily grind of the public administration and has gained enough experience in dealing with every type of crisis. To expect them to give-in without any fight is really naive.
I will wait to see who is having the last laugh in this case as well. I hope it is neither the Anna Brigade nor the Government but the people of India that is going to have that last laugh by strengthening our systems and making our processes corruption free.
P.S: Though unrelated to the above, I feel like to state here that the Jasmine revolution succeeded in Egypt because of the tacit support of Army and it failed in Bahrain because of its opposition. Look at Libya and Syria- even with so much outside support the people in those countries are no where closer to any Arab Spring!