The voter knows best

Arun NehruThe “timing” of Anna Hazare’s fast unto death was well planned — it did not clash with the World Cup but came after a jubilant victory. The country’s mood was upbeat and people, perhaps, needed to establish their own credentials as concerned and involved citizens of the country. They needed something to do.

No one can argue with a stand against corruption and Mr Hazare and his team of activists — Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal amongst others — have impeccable pro-people, anti-establishment credentials.
And people were fed-up of reading and hearing about black money, evasion of income tax and witnessing what has perhaps been the most brazen misuse of power and public money — first the 2G telecom scam and then the Commonwealth Games.
The electronic media immediately latched on to the story and their attention was vital for the message to spread across the country, which it did. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, on the other hand, did not take any action and remained in denial mode, contemplating compulsions of coalition politics and the forthcoming Assembly elections.
This denial was not new. Union telecom minister Kapil Sibal had earlier attacked the Comptroller and Auditor General for its report on the 2G spectrum allocation scam and announced that the revenue loss was “zero”.
Then there had also been the UPA’s explanation in the context of the appointment of P.J. Thomas as Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Clearly, condoning the actions taken by former telecom minister A. Raja was not a sensible strategy.
I am not surprised that besides the Public Accounts Committee and the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) formed after great reluctance by the UPA, the Supreme Court, too, is monitoring the 2G probe as also the black money stashed in foreign banks.
It is in this context that the Lokpal Bill and the issues raised by Mr Hazare assume importance. But what exactly are the details of his proposals? Also, what is the final picture that will emerge after the 10-member team scrutinises the whole issue? With so many preliminary objections being raised, I wonder if the two sides — civil society members and ministers — will treat each other with suspicion and trade charges. If this happens then we will not get very far.
We need the Lokpal Bill for political accountability at the top but in the process we cannot dilute the importance of Parliament and the supremacy of our courts and the judicial process.
We do not have a perfect government but we certainly do not want to replace that with anarchy and destroy institutions in a frenzy of emotion.
I don’t believe this will happen as the Indian voter has punished and rewarded individuals and parties based on their performance. There is no better example of this than the Emergency in 1975. Indira Gandhi and the Congress were humbled and defeated in 1977 after the moral crusade led by Jayaprakash Narayan. But three years later Indira Gandhi stormed back to power with a stunning victory in 1980. The majority of the voters were not influenced then and are not influenced now. Mr Hazare and his team should not claim to represent the entire civil society as they have not been elected but are merely exercising their democratic right to agitate to reform the system. And it is for this alone that they have received some public support.
Mr Hazare and his group of activists should be happy with the actions initiated by the Election Commission in Tamil Nadu where huge quantities of cash have been confiscated. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has made allegations of partisan action. While it may be that our system of governance is not perfect, but it is working. Chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and the Election Commission deserve praise.

ELECTIONS ARE underway in five states and one Union Territory — West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry — and the picture that is emerging is not surprising. In three crucial states, the Congress is likely to find itself on the winning side, and in Tamil Nadu on the losing side.
In West Bengal, the Left is on a sticky wicket and the alliance between the Trinamul Congress and the Congress should score a comfortable victory. In a 294-member House, they are likely to occupy 200 seats.
In Kerala, too, things are in favour of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). The UDF could win 80-85 seats against 45-50 seats for the Left Democratic Front. Although I have little information about Assam, in a splintered vote the Congress may be ahead of both the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu will be interesting. The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and other parties, including the Left, are ahead of the DMK and Congress. The Assembly of 234 members could see the AIADMK, along with the MDMK, winning 150-160 seats. The DMK has fielded candidates only in 119 seats and is weak in south Chennai. At the most it will get 70-80 seats.

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh was attending the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) meet in China.
The year 2011 is going to be difficult. This is already visible as the situation in Japan is deteriorating day by day and global recovery remains fragile. According to the Asian Development Bank’s annual report, China’s economy is expected to grow at 9.6 per cent with India in second position at 8.2 per cent, followed by Russia and Brazil at 4.5-5 per cent and the US at 2.8 per cent.
These figures represent the shift in global power equations. Magnified over a decade, the growth differential will get reflected even more significantly.
To me this indicates a series of new challenges and initiatives for the immediate future. Time does not wait for anyone so instead of talking of our favourable demographic pattern it is time to move ahead and hand over the power strings to a new generation.
Governance today is not easy; things have changed and the technology revolution has compressed time and increased awareness. Expectations from governments at all levels across the globe are running high and we are no exception to the rule.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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