August 17, 2011

Anna Hazare's protest exposes government's disconnect with people

Anna Hazare's protest has exposed many rotten things in Indian polity, but I will talk here on a different aspect: total disregard for public by our elected representatives in the government.

Indian parliament is full of people who have learnt politics from their fathers and forefathers (look at the progeny of Gandhis, Scindia, Karunanidhi,  et al) and also many who have learnt politics by way of crime and often defending crime (as lawyers). When UPA came to power, more than the people's true reps, these people got top ministerial ranks. If there are people like Pranab (Advani in BJP) there, they have become too rigid, having been in high positions for ages. Naturally, when it came to dealing with a true people's representative that Anna is, they didn't know what to do.

Since 'engaging civil society' looked to be fashionable, they engaged Anna. Immediately, they realised that they had erred (listen to early press conferences of Kapil Sibal). They not only backtracked, they launched a diatribe against all those in Anna's team. They held press conferences day in and day out, made a Group of Ministers on Media, used Press Information Bureau to the hilt - just to alienate masses further away from the government.  The more people saw faces like Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram (and later joined by Khurshid, Narayanan and Ambika Soni), the more they started hating the government. Manish Tiwari and Digvijaya Singh played good role as villains.

The duplicity of the government, its rigidity and its sheer disconnect with people's feelings were apparent from the day Kapil Sibal opened his mouth first time on Anna's fast in April. The disconnect with people - and government's firm refusal to see the mood on the ground - in the following days has been legendary.

What did the mainstream media do during this period? Recall what major newspapers  and TV channels have been showing for the last 5-6 days? Times of India has devoted almost the entire paper on Anna today, why? One, they are supporting fight against corruption. Two (and this is much more important), they are aligning with the huge groundswell in favour of protest against corruption. In one stroke, they have increased their readership by many lakhs, and a few lakh will become  permanent TOI followers! The point is, alert media houses are seeing opportunity to align with masses while the ruling party has been doing all that it can do to alienate people.

Leave aside their other follies for a moment, and tell me where has the political instinct of Congress to feel the emotions of the people gone? Have they become political General Dyers?

PS: I have been writing on corruption and have deliberately taken a break as far as blogging on it (Have been active on Twitter and have visited Chhatrasal Stadium once.) But this 'We-are-the-rulers-and-care-a-hoot-for-public' attitude of elected reps provoked me to write this piece.

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