Enter Anna the negotiator
Much is being made out in the media about Anna Hazare having scaled down his demands to reach a compromise with Parliament. I consider such reportage both mischievous and tendentious. The veteran Gandhian proved his prowess as a negotiator in striking common ground with law makers. Had the matter been left to perennial agitators like Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, the logjam wouldn’t ever have been broken, jeopardizing at once the objective of the fast that captured popular imagination across India. Rather than help create a climate for talks, the rabble-rousing duo’s proclivity for speech making from the stage spoiled the ambience so crucial for making talks work.
Prashant Bhushan shone in contrast as he largely kept his counsel —stepping out of the shadows only when fearing another “chakraviyuha” by the government. His rival interlocutors praised him privately for relying on reason rather than the Kiran-Kejriwal kind of rhetoric.
Maybe not in terms of the law or procedure, the resolution conveying the sense of the two Houses to the standing committee mandated to finalize the Lokpal Bill, is morally binding on our parliamentarians. Anna only showed his ability to agitate fiercely and negotiate wisely by accepting Parliament’s primacy to legislate in accordance with the Constitution—of which it is a creature— and the rules it has set to make laws. By accepting other views on the PM’s accountability and that of the judiciary and MPs, Anna disproved those who accused him of being obdurate and rigid. And this he did in return of government’s assurance to frontload three other aspects of the anti-graft architecture: a universal citizen’s charter for improving the delivery system, setting up Lokpals in states and bringing lower bureaucracy at the Centre within the ambit of the proposed ombudsman.
The scene now has shifted from the Ramlila Maidan to Parliament House where the standing committee will hold its sessions. The combat there will be cerebral. And in that, I’d wish Anna to win on points and not by a knock-out. That’ll only be better because best legislations are always a confluence of best ideas that aren’t available off a single window.