Parliament and the Anna Putsch
It should be obvious by now that a majority of Dalit and Muslim organizations are opposed to the sort of denigration of parliament that seems inherent in the Anna putsch as it has developed over the last few days. Add to that most Other Backward Classes as well whose leaderships may make opportunist statements but who also remain staunchly wedded to parliamentary supremacy against the claims of “direct democracy” made by Anna’s well-endowed backers.
The social character of this polarization is of the highest significance, and must interest all those for whom Indian democracy is a work-in-progress towards the enhancement of equity and non-discriminatory justice.
In one word, Dalits, Muslims, Tribals, and large sections of the Other Backward Classes view the attack on parliament as an attack on the only democratic institution wherein they, thanks to the Constitution, have any empowered presence and clout. Not in the judiciary, not in the bureaucracy, not at all within the media conglomerates, certainly not among the corporates, and negligible among the state-apparatus.
To put it another way, more than three-fourths of all Indians continue to have an enormous stake in the State, especially the legislatures, since their historical disabilities and lack of influence within the privatized productive assets and processes are near total.
The sentient sections of the backers who presently form the informing engines of the Anna event essentially speak for a new middle class whose links with the State, thanks to neoliberal transfers of wealth from the state to private agencies, have not only been atrophied, but have come to be seen as an obstructing nuisance. This reality in stark contrast to the middle classes that either drove the main coordinates of India’s anti-colonial movement, or engaged in nation-building thereafter, till India came to be absorbed into the Washington Consensus of 1990 under the guidance of the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
No surprise then that the products of that all-important policy-shift should today be demanding that the next step in neoliberal thinking be effected without loss of time, namely, the full-scale dissolution of the State as guardian of people’s interests.
Dalits, Backward Classes, and Muslims may seem to be opposing Anna and his Jan Lok Pal Bill from restricted, sectarian interests—Dalits arguing that the proposed Lok Pal idea and the processes leading upto it have, in a studied way, left them out of reckoning as stake-holders as a typical casteist exclusion, and Muslims deeply distressed by Anna’s less than forgettable predilections towards the Hindu Right, and his refusal to condemn Narendra Modi—but, underlying those axes of opposition is the far deeper anxiety about the weakening of the State, and its caving in now not just to private wealth but to the social and denominational leaderships that back private wealth.
Contrarily, the new middle classes are chagrined beyond measure that, despite their social and economic clout, the system of adult franchise should leave them out of political dominance, and entrust policy making to the ragamuffins who make up the non-elite beneficiaries of affirmative action policies of the state. Their strident demand for the next generation of “reforms” is meant precisely to forestall any further trek of the State with socially enabling measures that enhance the decision-making spaces of Tribals, Dalits, OBCs and religious minorities, chiefly Muslims.
It is clear from the twists and turns of the last few days that sections within the political class across party lines do sense this, and do also understand the dimensions of what is at stake for State and Polity. And much of the capitulation of the State to the Anna putsch is to be understood in terms of a recognition of the corporate power behind the putsch. It is to be greatly doubted that an even larger mobilization by non-elite segments of the hoi polloi, indefinite fast included, would send the same sort of jitters down the parliamentary spine as did the Anna event. After all, an Irom Sharmila has been fasting for more than a decade, and when has the State lost any sleep over that one?
It is time, and imperatively so, that segments of the intelligentsia who share these analyses and anxieties also make their voices heard. One would hope, especially, that the Indian Left, instead of piggy-backing a ruling class movement, would devote time, energy and genius to galvanizing an alternate mobilization, and ensure its effective sustenance.