As anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paigns sweep In­dia, the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture seems un­cer­tain. What are the con­se­quences and which po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are at the fore­front of change?

Southasia - - News - By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

In­dia’s anti-cor­rup­tion move­ment opens doors for more ac­tors but also alien­ates many.

Bi­har’s Chief Min­is­ter, Ni­tish Ku­mar, flagged off BJP leader LK Ad­vani’s Jan Chetna Ya­tra (Peo­ple’s Aware­ness Tour) from Sitab­di­ara, the birth place of Jayaprakash Narayan (JP): In­dia’s le­gendary so­cial­ist leader. JP was in­stru­men­tal in the first ever po­lit­i­cal change in In­dia in 1977 when Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party lost the elec­tions.

Ad­vani says that his ya­tra is against cor­rup­tion although the Ras­triya Swayam­se­vak Sangh (RSS) does not sup­port his can­di­da­ture for prime min­is­ter­ship in 2014. Ad­vani’s com­peti­tor, Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who is also run­ning for prime min­is­ter in 2014, feels his ‘good gov­er­nance’ in Gu­jarat could be­come a fac­tor to reckon with. How­ever, he faces stiff chal­lenges from not only Ad­vani but also from the Janata United Dal leader, Ni­tish Ku­mar, who has been a me­dia fa­vorite for the 2014 elec­tions with his sec­u­lar cre­den­tials as well as good gov­er­nance record.

Want­ing to re­it­er­ate his po­si­tion as supreme leader of the NDA, Ad­vani pur­pose­fully started his ya­tra from Bi­har where in Oc­to­ber 1990, Lalu Prasad Ya­dav had or­dered his ar­rested and stopped his Ram Rath ya­tra which re­sulted in com­mu­nal dis­tur­bances through­out the coun­try. Ad­vani knows that Naren­dra Modi will never be ac­cepted in the NDA due to his hard­core anti-mus­lim im­age. Fur­ther­more, Modi is al­ready pre-oc­cu­pied, ad­dress­ing cases pil­ing against his govern­ment and min­is­ters for the 2002 ri­ots.

The mid­dle class or opinion- mak­ers of In­dia have forced po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to ad­dress the is­sue of anti-cor­rup­tion that cur­rently marks In­dia. Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh’s im­age as a mid­dle class hero has taken a sharp beat­ing af­ter Anna Hazare’s cam­paign against cor­rup­tion un­veiled nu­mer­ous scams and the Congress party found it­self in the midst of tur­moil. Many in­sid­ers be­lieve that the Party’s 2014 face, Rahul Gandhi, is still not pre­pared for the big job. Rahul has been try­ing to reach the masses in Ut­tar Pradesh through his vis­its to farm­ers, Dal­its and oth­ers. With So­nia held back by ill­ness, it is Pranab Mukher­jee, Fi­nance Min­is­ter and P. Chi­dambaram, Union Min­is­ter

for Home Af­fairs, who have their eyes on the prize.

The big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary of the anti-cor­rup­tion move­ment seems to be Mayawati, Chief Min­is­ter, Ut­tar Pradesh. Given the mid­dle class’s anti-congress sen­ti­ment and un­set­tled by Rahul Gandhi’s in­volve­ment in UP, Mayawati is sure to re­turn to power in the Assem­bly elec­tions next year. She has a solid grip over the govern­ment and is look­ing for a road map to Delhi.

The National Demo­cratic Al­liance is us­ing Anna Hazare’s move­ment for its own pur­poses. Anna’s move­ment does not have sup­port from the Dal­its, mi­nori­ties and back­ward com­mu­ni­ties and is es­sen­tially a mid­dle class, up­per caste move­ment with a deep anti-congress agenda. Pre­vi­ously fac­ing di­vided op­po­si­tion, the Congress Party was con­vinced it would re­turn to power in 2014. The game has since changed.

Anna has openly asked peo­ple to vote against the Congress due to its lack of sin­cer­ity in push­ing the Lok­pal bill. Anna’s threat has dam­aged the Congress’s mid­dle class im­age but in the past twenty years this mid­dle class has been badly com­mu­nal­ized and turned saf­fron in In­dia. How­ever, the cards may boomerang on them if there is a counter-re­ac­tion from the Dal­its, OBCS and Mus­lims who are very ap­pre­hen­sive of the Anna cam­paign and the in­volve­ment of the Sangh Pari­var.

How­ever, much can change be­tween now and 2014. De­spite all its short­com­ings, UPA re­mains a bet­ter choice for In­dia as it is pre­pared to not just tackle fi­nan­cial cor­rup­tion but also is­sues of com­mu­nal­iza­tion of the mid­dle classes and me­dia. While UPA has made var­i­ous mis­takes, it is in­tro­duc­ing ground-break­ing leg­is­la­tion such as the Right to In­for­ma­tion Act, Food Se­cu­rity Act and the For­est Rights Act, amongst oth­ers. Spec­u­la­tions may aid me­dia frenzy; how­ever a new In­dia will need a modern look­ing prime min­is­ter with a deep sense of po­lit­i­cal un­der­stand­ing and di­ver­sity of the coun­try. In­dia can­not af­ford an apo­lit­i­cal prime min­is­ter, nor can it af­ford a leader at the top who has a tainted com­mu­nal record. The best bet for In­dia is a leader with a clean im­age, who is ac­cept­able to the mi­nori­ties and marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties. The writer is a hu­man rights ac­tivist and doc­u­men­tary film-maker, based in New Delhi.

Keep­ing pol­i­tics in line

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