+ International Studies


SEP 07, 2011
By Siddhartha S.Bhadrakumar
Political movements arise out of various circumstances , usually of an adverse nature. In extreme cases such movements coalesce into revolutions. Some attempt to be both political movements and revolutions at the same time. One such case is the so-called anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare. While such movements are attractive by their very nature as they appear to have quick ready made solutions to deep socio-economic problems, in reality revolutions soon lose their sense of direction and rarely if ever provide long term solutions. Without going too deeply into the nature of revolutions it can be safely said that the Anna Hazare movement against corruption represents no fundamental revolution and is unlikely to substantially redress the problem of corruption in India. Why this is so is sought to be examined here.

For one thing corruption in India is institutionalized and large sections of the ruling establishment seek to benefit from it. This is not a phenomenon which happened yesterday or today but can be at least traced back to the Mundhra scandal under the prime ministership of Nehru, whom it is fashionable to describe among some quarters as a sort of Ataturk of modern India. On a more formal basis corruption got firmly entrenched in India during the leadership of his daughter Indira Gandhi ; a story eloquently chronicled in the book ?The Aborted Revolution? by I.P.Singh. So much for the genesis of corruption in India. We might next seek to examine the nature of this movement.

Anna Hazare would like to describe himself as a modern day Gandhi. However that is also not an apt comparison. Gandhi fought against a colonial state, i.e. the British Raj in India. His movement was unique in that through the modicum of non-violent agitation he brought an oppressive state apparatus to its knees. However it would be missing the wood for the trees in also not acknowledging the destruction of the British empire to the adverse consequences of the Second World War. Also Gandhi?s main complaint against the British was the lack of representation of Indians in governance. It is a moot point if he would have pressed the struggle to an ouster of their rule in India if they had granted Dominion Status based on self rule as they did in other territories such as Australia and New Zealand.

The Anna Hazare movement is however not about securing representation for Indians in governance. It is focusing on the issue of corruption. Through a form of agitational politics,Anna Hazare has sought to seemingly take on the Indian state head on, on the issue of corruption. In reality corruption is a complex phenomenon and cannot be taken on frontally as there are too many vested interests arraigned in its favour in India. Nor can it be overcome by calls for total revolution as Anna Hazare has done ,similar to Jayaprakash Narain in the 1970s. It is also a matter of speculation as to who are the powers actually at work behind Anna Hazare and what is his and their actual agenda. There can be no denying that the movement has come at an interesting time when Sonia Gandhi, the de facto power ruling the country is recuperating from surgery in the U.S. and also comes shortly after the visit of Senator McCain to Kashmir. Interestingly the Congress Party has alleged Anna Hazare is a phenomenon sponsored by the U.S. There is also wide scale disgruntlement among the middle class that the economic reforms agenda which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had vociferously espoused in his avatar as finance minister in the early 1990s and which had led to the opening up of the Indian economy to liberalization has all but been dumped by him in his present role as leader of the country. It is therefore highly probable that this disgruntlement on the part of the urban middle classes with the Congress Party has coalesced into the Anna Hazare movement with the seemingly simplistic agenda of ridding the country of corruption.

Corruption by its very nature is not unique to India and indeed afflicts most societies throughout the world. Also one need not be a Leninist or Marxist to agree with the Marxian notion that the state represents repression in concentrated form and is likely to react with repression .At the same time Anna Hazare is not leading any sort of Arab Spring in India as he is challenging a democratic state apparatus and not an autocracy.

Therefore what does this movement represent and what are likely to be its repercussions. For one thing Indian politics has a tendency to focus on one issue at a time and then move on to the next issue. It does not look for long term solutions to problems but lets them fester. At the same time these do not reach a breaking point as ample scope is given for political agitation. Therefore firebrands are given the ability of letting off steam in a manner akin to a pressure cooker. Even the Maoists, locally known as Naxalites, who seek to overthrow the Indian state through armed means have been around since the 1950s and 1960s.

A real reform of the system of governance is required for effectively redressing the canker of corruption. For one thing the process by which people become politicians should be changed and effective implementation of legislation debarring criminals from becoming elected representatives should be implemented. What is called for is a systemic reform process, including changing the very nature of Parliament. Then only can the issue of corruption be effectively tackled, otherwise the Anna Hazare movement is likely to do little except expose the ideological bankruptcy of the ruling Congress Party and the ineptness of its political leadership at an interesting juncture in Indian politics.