Fast and future

Anna Hazare was supposed to break his fast at 10 am on Sunday, but in the event he — and everyone else — was kept waiting while a member of his "team" made an interminable "mission accomplished" speech. When it is something as hydra-headed and intangible as corruption, however, it is difficult to imagine how victory could be defined — and more, since the reduction of corruption is something that unites most people, including those in Parliament, it puzzling why a milestone on the way to reducing it should be seen as a matter of victory or defeat at all. If there are real lessons to be taken away from the past ten days, one should be that this is about more than the hubris of Team Anna or the leaden reactions of UPA 2. It is about the emergence of an increasingly aware urban Indian, and of the stability and responsiveness of the Indian constitutional system.

In the end, Team Anna's maximalist demands — their bill, or an agitation — had to be dialled down; Parliament's right to amend, make and pass legislation was reiterated; and the Indian people got to see their political leaders, across party lines, speak firmly about the many variants of corruption that affect this country's citizens, and about what could be done to deal with them. In the debates in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, MPs from the two main national parties did not respond to the anti-politician mood that was visible onstage at the Ramlila Maidan; but those from smaller parties were not so restrained. Again, Sharad Yadav had a pointed defence of Parliament— "27 MPs have spent time behind bars and this House saw to it they were put behind bars" — and Lalu Prasad said "the Constitution should not be bypassed one bit." In these words from backward-class leaders who emerged from a previous agitation, we see the power of Parliament and Constitution to represent and to inspire. That, with the flexibility of Indian politics, is what has been underlined this week.

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