At the heady peak of the Anna Hazare movement in 2011, the question we were often asked was, so why are you so against this anti-corruption movement that will send thieving netas to jail? In condemnatory Twitter precis, it was usually worded more pithily: You are pro-corruption.
This is a useful time to list our arguments against the Anna movement. First, that while corruption was a terrible problem, its solution was not the creation of an omnipotent Lokpal answerable to none and a police state. Also that the Jan Lokpal Bill, in that form, was unconstitutional and undemocratic and would never pass. The larger solution to corruption was governance reform and reducing areas of friction between the ordinary citizen and the sarkar. Second, that the movement was so apolitical, so bereft of political energy, that it was bound to lose momentum as ideology (not just idealism) is the fuel of popular movements in democracy. Third, that its “mera neta chor hai” approach to India’s problems, thereby condemning Indian politics, was flawed. That while there was a lot that was rotten with the system, you couldn’t cleanse it from the outside. You had to come inside the larger democratic—and political—tent and force the traditional politician to compete with you on ideas and ideologies. And fourth, that politics is never simply black or white. It is even more complex than mere shades of grey. It is inclusive, accommodative, negotiatory, unforgiving and merciless. So don’t just condemn your politics. Join the fray and rout the “bad guys”.
Two years hence, we can report with journalistic satisfaction that each one of these arguments is won. The Jan Lokpal Bill is now history. Anna’s movement is finished and those that glowed in his giant halo are now fighting with him like schoolchildren, with Anna pretty much accusing them of stealing his trademarks. Anna’s children, led by the most favourite and impressive of them all, Arvind Kejriwal, have now become a regular political party with caps, slogans and an election symbol. And finally, though some could still argue that the jury is out on this one, they are realising the complexities of our politics and governance.
The political picture of the year is one this paper has published on page one today. It shows Aam Aadmi Party leader Yogendra Yadav (originally one of our most respected political science intellectuals) flanked by his colleagues and besieged by reporters and