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Civil society’s unreal politics

Civil society’s unreal politics
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First Published: Sun, Apr 10 2011. 04 53 PM IST
Updated: Sat, Jul 02 2011. 06 19 PM IST
Finally Anna Hazare and his cohort have prevailed over the government. They have managed a position of equals on the committee that will draft the Lokpal Bill. This is not an unprecedented situation. There have been occasions when outside experts have been drafted to write laws.
This, however, is an altogether different case. The government has been dragooned into submission and the so-called civil society has displayed marked proclivity for anarchy. This is where the danger lies. At any given point in time, India is governed by lawfully constituted governments. Constitutionally and politically, they are the bearers of the hopes and aspirations of the people of India. Period. Whether such hopes are met or belied determines their balance of legitimacy. There is no doubt that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s stock has been depleted to a perilously low level. The spate of scandals involving its ministers and functionaries is there for all to see. Yet, to claim that the fight over the Lokpal Bill is one between the government and “the people” is a dangerous idea, one that is not very distant from an adventure in anarchy.
Some signs of that are already evident. Even as the drama was close to its final act, Hazare said he would not rest until he has ensured justice for the poor and downtrodden of India. This sounds like an innocuous statement of a crusader. It is not. For this is an issue for the government to sort out: if any citizen or a group of citizens is dissatisfied and wants to change economic and social policies, they are free to contest elections and take charge after they have a proper legislative majority. To bypass this process is illegitimate if not downright illegal.
Then there is the issue of the persons who are trying to subvert the established processes: barring some honourable exceptions, most of them are self-serving individuals. In the flush of “victory” and the pleasure derived from humbling a government, it is difficult to appreciate this fact. There is, however, no denying that this is the case. The petty fight over places on the drafting committee and the jealousy between the factions of the so-called civil society groups amply proves this. Such persons cannot be the bearers of public trust.
The larger lesson is that governmental legitimacy matters in India today. Any loss of it beyond a point can lead to dangerous situations that have the potential to unleash anarchy. The sooner the UPA government learns to appreciate that fact, the better it will be for everyone.
What led to the government’s capitulation on the Lokpal Bill issue? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Apr 10 2011. 04 53 PM IST