The ongoing tussle between the Congress and the members of the Jan Lokpal drafting committee

It was in April that the Congress tasted the wrath of public pressure. It was in April that Anna Hazare launched his indefinite fast to protest against the Government version of the Jan Lokpal Bill. This was also a time when the Government was under pressure because of the revelations of the 2G scam, the CWG scam, the Adarsh housing society issue, and so many other problems. The pressure from the media, from the courts, and consequent belief in the public about corruption everywhere was over-whelming. So, after initially ignoring the public pressure for some time, the Congress buckled down after a few days and agreed that they would get the members of the ‘civil society’ to be part of the members of the committee that would draft the new laws.
However, it is also true that being able to negotiate their way out of danger is something that the Congress knows very well. The typical response is to setup a committee to discuss ways, or to get them into bureaucratic gridlock, or to throw around a lot of Government talk in order to ensure that eventually it is the Government that gets what it wants.
In the middle happened all the drama about Baba Ramdev. There is still no clarity about what his exact intentions are, but he had a lot of support. However, his tactics need more finesse, since he needs to know what to say and how to manage his support. With the one statement about building up an army, he kicked away a large amount of his support base, and never managed to bring them back. Further, the eviction by the Government could have built up a huge amount of sympathy for him, but he frittered it away. And his demands were not something that were easily understood; even those who supported him were basically for a fight against corruption – not for the death penalty against corruption, and not for the abolition of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes. If he really was clever, he would have ensured that the Jan Lokpal Bill members continued to be on his side, and also started such peaceful satyagraha in many cities in the country. Now, his fast has ended, but most people have ignored his effort now. It will take some more careful planning for him to emerge as one of the leaders of the fight against corruption.

Things have become much worse in the discussions between the Jan Lokpal Bill. So, after the Government showed a hard step in getting rid of Swami Ramdev from Delhi, they have decided on a hard line (trying to project that they are not a weak Government, and in every utterance after that, the Government seems to have decided that they will attack the members of the Jan Lokpal committee). So, Anna Hazare is attacked bitterly, and the Government seems to have taken a hard stand that what happens in the Bill will be as to what the Government wants. The reason – well, members of Parliament are the representatives of the people and hence are supreme, and nobody can dictate terms to them.
Such a hard line can backfire. Already, members of the Jan Lokpal committee are firing back, questioning the supremacy of MP’s with the argument that it is the people who are supreme and MP’s are just the servants of the people. Further, the Government seems to be going back on its initial agreement, and this something that is pushing the members of civil society to take a stand against the Government, wanting to still go the full length to ensure that the real face of the Government is exposed. In a fight between the Government and crusaders against corruption, there is really no contest. The Government cannot win this, even though they can win a temporary battle. After all, with the Government being such that anytime anybody investigates something, corruption shines through (such as in the revelations coming around Maran; or the continuing trial of the 2G scam case); it is bound to lose public support. It will be the media that first becomes the face of public disapproval, and the Government will see more public disapproval; expressed in the way that the Government understands – loss of support, and loss of bye-elections and states.
The Government has become arrogant, with the statements by Chidambaram, the idiotic ramblings of Digvijay Singh, and the smiling deceit of Kapil Sibal taking it towards destruction. Is it too late for the Congress to turn back ?

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