Viva Anna! (Long live Anna)
Viva la Revolution! (Long live the revolution)
One would have never thought that one could get a chance to say all that in India in the new millennium!
But what is happening on the Indian streets now is nothing short of the beginning of a revolution against corruption. In fact, the only question to be asked is: Can the Indians sustain this protest long enough for it to actually make a difference?
What began as the Tunisian Revolution ended up knocking down a lot of well-trenched leaderships in the domino effect that is now called the Arabian Spring. Egypt had its Tahrir Square and protests also took place in Libya, Bahrain, Syria and many other countries.
24-hour TV and the reach of social networking sites ensure that such protests and campaigns can be kept alive for extended periods. Of course there is one big difference between the Indian and the Arab Spring. While other countries have had authoritarian regimes, India is a flourishing democracy. Fighting for a democracy is different from fighting corruption.
But that should in no way take anything away from more opportunities towards a more "Direct Democracy". For example, referendums right now have no role in our country. That's one of the things that could be rectified.
The National Advisory Council and the movement India Against Corruption are both non-political bodies which are bringing about a change in their own ways.
Not an overnight phenomenon...
Of course all this hasn't happened overnight. The era of coalition politics ensures that public opinion will have a much greater say. The RTI Act and 24 hour news channels have ensured that more and more scams are being unearthed. They also do not go out of the public limelight as used to happen in the past.
Following this, the sheer magnitude of recent scams has left the people of India disillusioned, frustrated and shell-shocked. Nothing seems short of being in the region of "thousands of crores": CWG, 2G and the Income Tax evasion of Hasan Ali to name just a few.
An active judiciary and office of the CAG put the government squarely on the backfoot. Then was the high-handedness of the government in clearing thousands of Baba Ramdev supporters in the middle of the night from the Ramlila Grounds.
Since the government got away with that, they approached the whole Anna Hazare issue with a hubris and arrogance that has sickened the nation.
Anna is a simple old man who has no property, no family and is ready to put his life on the line for the issue of corruption.
It is no wonder that he has struck a cord with millions of Indians suffering under an ever-growing inflationary economy.
Despite the writing being on the wall, the government has been fighting an intense battle against Anna Hazare instead of focusing on the true issue at hand: Corruption.
That is why all their plans have backfired so far.
To give the UPA credit, they have an honest Prime Minister at the helm, they have given us stability for the past seven years and many factors in the economy are beyond their control.
But an arrogance of power can never be forgiven. The Congress leaders are day by day getting more and more detached from the very people who have voted them to power.
Reaching a critical mass...
Consider the facts. Thousand of people courted arrest to express solidarity with Anna Hazare. Lakhs of people have marched through the streets to show support. Looking at these figures, in all probability, crores of people are sitting in their living rooms watching TV, shaking their heads at the government's total lack of resolve to tackle corruption.
Therein lies the danger: The anger of crores of people.
The Congress would do well to remember that though the population of India is 120 crores, a fraction of these have not reached the voting age and about 40% do not bother to turn to vote.
As a result, in the 2009 general elections, the Congress received about 15 crore votes. So if one crore voters drop out of the bandwagon, then it's a negative vote swing of more than 6%. Two crores will mean 12% and so on. That's a huge factor in coalition politics.
It wouldn't be too off the mark to assume that the current anti-corruption movement centering around Anna Hazare already has the sympathy of a few crore people.
The numbers are touching critical mass to topple any government! If the people were fighting against the UPA instead of corruption in general, the government might already have fallen.
But it's just not a message to the Congress.
Such waves of anger could just about scorch any political party in any state!
Signs of the change in mood of the Indian voter are already showing.
There is a shift towards anti-corruption and pro-development. That explains why a Chief Minister like Narendra Modi can be re-elected despite the dark stain of Godhra. It explains how even a state like Bihar can put aside all their caste equations and re-elect a person like Nitish Kumar by a near-landslide.
Most opinion polls put the ADMK and DMK neck and neck before the polls and one even put the DMK in front. And yet the DMK was trounced badly. The 2G fiasco is sure to have played a huge role.
British Empire versus the Corruption Empire...
Till 1947 just a handful of Britishers could rule the overwhelming majority of Indians. Similarly today, compared to the population of India, a handful of corrupt politicians and government officials are holding the more than 1 billion plus Indians to ransom. The common man is by and large clean except when he is forced to give a bribe.
Till yesterday people thought that it wasn't possible, but today the battle against corruption has at least begun.
Sometimes the people are ready for a revolution but are just waiting for a leader and somehow Anna Hazare has filled that vacuum.
Of course there is now a long and arduous journey ahead.
How long will the protests last? How will all the political parties react? How will the people vote in the upcoming elections? Will this revolution continue or fizzle out?
All in all, 2011 sure promises to be a watershed year!
Will 2011 ruin 2014 for Congress?
An Open Letter to the Congress Party...