The Anna excuse

The wheels of the anti-corruption movement are turning in strange ways. It has to be acknowledged that anti-corruption sentiment was given momentum by the Anna movement. But it looked as if the movement's dogmatism, political naivety, excessive statism and exaggerated sense of virtue would undermine it. In a certain sense, it has. However, we should not overlook this fact: in the year since the movement began, the political establishment has been close to shameless in using the weaknesses of the movement to avoid confronting some basic issues. The Lokpal bill is stuck for a very understandable reason: in its current form, it is the worst of all possible worlds. But at this juncture we should not let the weaknesses of the Anna movement disguise the perfidy large sections of the political class are playing on us. They are, to use the phrase from Macbeth, commending the ingredients of our own poisoned chalice to our own lips, using the critique of the Anna movement as cover to exacerbate the rot.

First, all politicians should not be tarred with the same brush and declared guilty. However, from this reasonable premise, politicians are beginning to conclude that all politicians are innocent. There was an initial flurry that looked like a cleaning-up process: a couple of chief ministers lost their jobs, if not their power; Suresh Kalmadi and A. Raja were in jail. But it would stretch facts to conclude that even a minimal clean-up job has begun. We all believe that, in part, a clean-up job has to be political: there has to be a credible signal from government that it is willing to govern on new norms. But quite the contrary has happened. The biggest power brokers in the system, at the heart of these machines of corruption and patronage, have gone to greater heights. It is also no state secret that given the uncertainties of the 2014 election, the demand for political war chests has increased.

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