Whither Anti-Corruption Movement?
More than seventeen years ago, Common Cause decided to take the Union of India to court for its unfulfilled promises to enact a law to establish the institution of Lokpal for combating corruption by public servants. As the matter dragged on in the Supreme Court of India, due partly to procedural complexities but largely to dilatory tactics and deliberate misrepresentation by the government, Common Cause took the initiative of holding a broad-based consultation to delineate the essential features of an institutional framework comprising a central Lokpal and state Lokayuktas for ensuring probity in public life. The consensus arrived at in this deliberation was incorporated in a submission made to the Apex Court in August 2008. Two years later, this formulation served as the initial template of the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Having been involved in the Jan Lokpal movement since its inception, we have been following the vicissitudes of India Against Corruption with interest and empathy, offering our assistance and counsel at every critical juncture and turning point in its brief course. It has also been our endeavour to build upon the common objectives and shared values of the organizations and activists waging their struggles against institutional corruption and narrow down their divergences. During the heady days of the unprecedented mass mobilisation in support of Anna Hazare's fast at Ramlila Maidan in August 2011, when differences within civil society over the shape and content of the requisite anti-corruption measures threatened to jeopardize the solidarity as well as the impact of the anti-corruption movement, our efforts had helped stem the mutual recriminations and restore the lines of communication between the proponents of different versions of legislative proposals.
It is, therefore, with a heavy heart that we have observed the building-up of tension within India Against Corruption between the votaries of an apolitical mass movement, who are steadfast in their refusal to enter electoral politics, and those who, in the face of the arrogance of elected representatives, have come to realize the limitations of an agitation-based approach and have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they must jump into the electoral arena, emerge as an influential bloc in the legislatures and work for changing the system from within.
Once it became clear that the two streams had become immiscible, we tried our level best at Anna Hazare's meeting with the IAC leadership at Delhi's Constitution Club on September 19, 2012 to help evolve a structure for the movement which would allow the coexistence of three distinct but complementary streams, each following its own course to bring about the desired systemic change. While the first would have focused on constructive work at the ground level, the second would have concentrated on popular mobilization, and the third stormed the portals of Parliament and state legislatures. This articulation would not have been very different from the structure of the Congress-led freedom movement before the Second World War, when the Party, shedding its long standing opposition to Council entry, contested the 1936-37 Provincial Elections and captured power in eight out of eleven provinces. Unfortunately, there were not many takers for this idea and a parting of ways became inevitable. Eventually, the constitution of a political party was announced by Arvind Kejriwal on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.
- Kamal Kant Jaswal