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Anna Movement | Revenge of anti-Mandal

Anna Movement | Revenge of anti-Mandal

Author: Sidharth Mishra
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 25, 2011
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/item/50744-anna-movement.html

Team Anna, having started from the claim of being apolitical, finally now accepts that they are political albeit with the clause that their politics is limited to being anti-Congress.

They forward certain explanations for being anti-Congress, though it's another matter that when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar refused to accommodate them, they turned against him too.

Every political movement has a social base, which gets reflected in the policy it pursues. Every political movement is struggle for power and the movement led by Anna Hazare is no exception. Communication theorist Harold Lasswell had defined politics as, "who gets what, when and how." Examining Hazare's movement on the whetstone of Lasswell's definition, there is no ambiguity that Team Anna is seeking power (what) and their method is public agitation and subverting constitutional process (how). 'When' they would succeed is something which is not yet clear.

Now let us examine what is the social base of Hazare's movement. Team Anna members have very intelligently tried not to project their social base in terms of caste configuration, something which is very integral to Indian politics. However, they have frequently betrayed signs of being as much caste conscious as any other political organisation.

In fact, they have been worse. Anna breaking fast by receiving juice from two 'Dalit' children at Ramlila Maidan made it amply clear that they did not have a problem in even branding a child with her caste, if it suited their purpose of pursuing power. Under certain laws promulgated over the years to prevent caste-based repression, public declaration of the caste of the two children made a fit case for prosecution of Hazare, but a pusillanimous Government preferred to look the other way.

The social base of this movement consists of the castes whose share in the governance pie came to be reduced following the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in 1990. The implementation of the report to give 27 percent reservation to the candidates belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in government jobs was followed by major events of our contemporary history - opening of economy and unprecedented growth in media industry.

The last two decades have been years of growth witnessing rise of Indian IT and other corporate majors, widening of the influence of social sector and increasing corporatisation of media. This was possible not merely because there were funds available for investment but the fact that there was human resource in plenty waiting to be absorbed in a decent job. Thus, getting a job with TCS and not SAIL became the aspiration of the young engineering graduates.

Opening and working for an NGO came with certain amount of social respectability and acceptability.

In media houses too, several well-educated professionals, who would have otherwise ended becoming desk officers in Ministries or in similar jobs, came to wield the mike and push the pen. It's not surprising that surveys repeatedly indicate lack of Dalit/OBC representation in the media houses. However, this doesn't justify the case for quota in private sector or media. Since the educated among these socially repressed classes are getting accommodated in Government jobs, there is not much motivation for them to join the media or for that matter any other job in private sector.

The implementation of the Mandal Commission report had its natural fallout on the electoral politics of the country too. It led to the consolidation of the OBCs and Dalits, resulting in a proportional representation, especially in the case of the backward castes. The resultant fallout of the process of social change was decreasing participation of the upper castes, especially from the urban centres, in matters of governance.

Anna Hazare has made no bones about his agitation being media propelled. The Lokpal Bill movement has more support in the cyber world than it has in the real world. The techies, the corporates, social sector activists and mediapersons are the main pillar of strength for Hazare.

The most dominant role in the movement is being played by the social sector activists, who continue to interact with government machinery even at Group C and D levels. Therefore, it's not surprising that the NGOs have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the civil society as the resentment among them at being governed by socially repressed classes is highest.

In times when the administrative philosophy is for making government machinery leaner, the 'most educated and conscious citizens' of the country are pitching for creating a monstrous government institution which would prosper on tax-payers' money costing Rs 200 crore yearly to begin with.

Use of technology and ending monopoly has been our best weapon in the fight against corruption. There are several examples of it. When technology is on the roll, why do we need autocratic and anachronistic institution like the Lokpal? The need arises from the desire to be part of governance. The spirit of our Constitution entails that we could be part of governance by either joining the electoral process or being part of bureaucracy. Something made difficult for the anti-Mandal forces ever since the introduction of quota by Vishwanath Pratap Singh in 1990.

These forces managed to become part of governance in 'advisory' capacity as members of institutions like the National Advisory Committee. It's the rivalry and fight for the spoils between these forces that has seen the rise of a movement, which is fighting for the setting-up of an undemocratic institution whose composition would be based totally on the spoils system.

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