Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The mandatory fallout of post independence movement revolutions in India.

From two revolutions to two parties

Just about the same time of the year in 2012, the nation, and specifically the capital, were struck by an amazing gumption. Like suddenly we realized we had this amazing power and asset at an arm's reach. While we all had grown up hearing about the valor with which our forefathers fought for the nation's freedom, and we all were taught how formidable our constitution is, we never witnessed something like this before. We knew the reality and now suddenly this crusader - a messiah and a watchdog, seemed to emerge from a hinterland people in the capital had never even heard of. This senile and frail man from a small hamlet of Maharashtra was ravaging fire in the capital, stirring the reins of power and assimilating the desires and fury of everyone who remained in some kind of furlough till then. A short but stout man finally blew a clarion, feeble in front of the mighty parliament, but still producing a din loud enough to wake up some set of the masses. People joined his movement, the young seem invigorated, the technocrats flooded Facebook and Twitter with rancorous and raging content in support, and everything seemed pretty much in place for this old man's utopic dream to hit the reality of nirvana. And just when things looked merry, it struck again! The age old anathema on Indian revolutions.

Anna Hazare, the leader of the anti corruption moment and the chief proponent of the Jan Lokpal, finally decided to give in to the languor and travails. What started as a revolution on the back of an entire spree of scams that got unearthed one after the other, delineating the gargantuan losses accrued to the exchequer, was now waning under the age old panacea. While it was obvious that the sturdy but senile Anna was going to dither eventually, the entire nation's hopes were predicated on his resolute. And it was even effective, clearly witnessed in the form of unprecedented parliamentary sessions being called up and various politicians trying to side with the renegade turned heroes. It all seemed so very evocative that it gives me goosebumps even today. For the first time I, as a fledgling, thought that I've got a genuine way to contribute apart from remaining virulent on online media, doing no more than getting reciprocal likes and comments from a handful of people. I saw myself as a rebellion and my 'Swades' moment seemed to have arrived. While on one hand I knew what we all were dreaming of was never going to have an easy passage, something inside me made things seem propitious, and maybe for the first time in my life. But Alas! History repeats itself and this time it hit worse than I thought.

Anna led IAC movement at its prime
Almost all fairy tales and parables talk of a hero who manumits the commons by defeating the evil. The evil was the malaise of corruption and a partial form of autarky. People flinched their fists in anger and turned dolorous thinking how their hard earned money was getting stashed away in escrow accounts abroad. While embezzlement of people's money was nothing new, this was the Mount Everest of all purloins to be carried out in our lifetimes. Anna Hazare became an overnight star and for some reason, a battle we knew to be long, didn't seem long enough. A man we all knew would break his fast, now seemed like he might even put his life on the line. And everyone was charged up and ready. Boy did I feel the gushing of the blood inside. 'Swaraj', Freedom and Gandhian virtues became the buzzwords and the nation witnessed a makeover of sorts. It was all going good. It had to be all good from there. But wait! 
And there emerges another hero
Another short and stout man, right out of the folklore, emerges and takes over the crowds by storm. While a forlorn and plaintive Anna is now on the verge of succumbing after a prolonged abstinence from food, a new leader now had to take over the rostrum to speak. Arvind Kejriwal was another unknown face, and another leader who challenged the machinery and who wouldn't cower. It seemed obvious that Anna required a progeny to take care of the revolution and it was bequeathed upon Arvind. People didn't know what this new man would bring. He seemed astute and a little less frivolous so he did score points there as well. It once again seemed things were right. And suddenly came the jolt of my life. A couple of hours of siesta during the afternoon and I opened up the TV, slightly puckering my eyes, full of despair and despondence to see the news flashing brighter than some floodlights. The revolution was called off. And what was the result of the umpteen number of days of toil and torment? Another political party. One that would supposedly be different from all others and would solve all our problems. Humph!

Amid a stifled revolution and tonnes of broken hopes, people receded back to their shells. The ones with effrontery bewailed on seeing such a dreary denouement to such a fascinating journey. The conservative ones celebrated, knowing that a delicate balance between fervor and sanity was finally struck. And then there was the selfie crowd which just went away, somewhat sad that there won't be any more selfies and check-ins at Ramlila Grounds, but faithful that the burgeoning Aam Aadmi Party would give them more chances to appear more suave, uber and topical in the future. All in all, no one had any damn idea what was to happen now, and the fomenting media which was riding heavy on the back of such a lurid piece of news, suddenly felt astray not knowing how to restore the TRPs again. The canopies, chairs and mattresses were loaded away, the microphones and loudspeakers which saw many rancorous folks roar their angst against the government were now dismantled, and Anna Hazare was no longer on fast. The only man standing at the end was Arvind Kejriwal, and the biggest winner was not the nation as he so vehemently proclaimed. It was indeed the other political outfits because they now had to deal with just another party, instead of dealing with a fickle revolution which seemed to be enraging and fulminating the masses. The revolution was dead, splintering away in the vortex of a phenomenon that the nation witnessed just a little more than 3 decades ago.

A crestfallen nation gets some hope
Rewind to the momentous 1970s. While the backbone of the modern 2012 revolution was the government's apathy to corruption, the ubiquitous plague was not witnessed for the first time. Back in those days of Indira's regime, it was not only corruption, but despotism, authoritarianism and constricted growth and development which propelled the youth of the nation to revolt. Parallel movements were going on in Gujarat, Bihar, and various places, all led by students who sensed a pretty drab future for themselves in that regime. And just because a leader not only complements the revolution but is actually a desideratum, for it to go on Jaiprakash Narayan, an ardent activist, was now roped in to lead a revolution that was still surviving as a concoction of bits an pieces. While students and the nation were virulent and glowering, a leader with method and insight was now brought to see that this first profound hankering of the people to see some justice, was done some justice to. And a big tale was there in the making.

A prolonged cold war of sorts was fought along the lines of jurisprudence, right to freedom of speech, and questions on government's judgment and volition on development. The media was all stirred up, seeing an opportunity to act as a catalyst at a pretty big stage just like it did back in the days of the freedom movements. The ruling party had no more than placebos to offer the proletariat, and the primordial but staunch entities of the JP/Bihar movement were now engendering a massive public outcry, making them aware of how bad the situation is, and how oppressed they've been all this time. While the emaciated Indian people, who were used to living under atrocities and dystopian times hadn't bothered much till now, they suddenly squeaked when they realized how squalid their position had become. A massive and giant transformation was on the cards.

The times couldn't have gotten any sleazier
At times, it's sheer hard work and dedication which consummate and help accomplish a task or mission. But for JP and his acolytes, it was serendipity rolled out by the another pillar of the constitution - the judiciary, which hit the nail in the coffin. The Allahbad High Court decreed a landmark judgment in 1975, which shook the nation and jolted the very foundations of the grand old party. In another tale of valor and determination, Raj Narain, the one who was annihilated in the general elections in Raebareli held during 1971, acted plaintiff and arraigned the Congress supremo of using foul play for her victory. The court ruled against her and the leader of the nation proved to be the captain of the corsair. She immediately applied to Supreme Court for a repeal, and issued a nationwide emergency on June 25th 1975, thereby triggering the darkest hour of independent India.

The JP movement gathered traction and what begun as an influential but still not so considerable movement, turned into a quotidian revolution. During emergency, the nation turned into a penitentiary, and multiple clauses and caveats cut the reporting powers of the media with a cleaver. However, nothing could impede the growing prevalence of the JP movement. A country in ennui now turned sullen and agitated. More and more people were now ready to abnegate what they had, for the promise of what they could get with a change. It was a retrospective redux of Anna's Janlokpal movement. Even then it was the youth that catapulted the revolution to the fore. Even then there was one single hero, JP, who eschewed his very life in the service of the nation, and even back then it was Congress, stuck as a loathsome picture in the middle of the dart board, waiting to be hit. Two pathbreaking movements, two emphatic leaders, two gigantic missions, and two separate timelines intertwined in the tapestry of history.

The blank Indian Express editorial
As the JP movement stood at the zenith of its popularity, the crusader Jaiprakash Narain had to take a tough call on what was to be the future course that the movement shall assume. While all affiliates of the revolution did a very good job of berating, repudiating and proving with full mettle that the emergency as well as the Congress governance were absolutely obnoxious, it was now their turn to present their proposition to the audiences. Till now, it was only about sustaining the impetus of the revolution to make sure it wouldn't die out. Now, with Indira Gandhi getting taking her case to the Supreme Court and imposing complete emergency, people were even apprehensive about the independence with which different pillars of democracy function. Hints were also made to prospective connivance between the apex of the judiciary and her party, which reigned supreme throughout these years. The standoff between her and the media also became prevalent and the blank editorial of the Indian Express on 28th June 1975, allegorically manifesting the entire nation's mistrust in Smt. Gandhi's whimsical demeanor, became a legend that remains a cult even till today.

Just a year before emergency on June 5, 1974, JP roared from Patna's Gandhi Maidan and talked about Total Revolution(Sampoorna Kranti), auguring how tightwads at the local government(The procession was carried out mainly against Bihar's legislative body) shall be brought down. The 2012 Anna Movement was pretty much the same. Gandhi Maidan was replaced by Ramlila Maidan, and "Sampoorna Kranti" by "Poorna Swaraj", and of course JP by Anna. During the emergency, all dissenting voices within Congress and most leaders of opposition were immediately arrested. Needless to say, the nation was bemoaning under agony, waiting to go for the kill. Amid so much of kerfuffle, this movement suddenly became the final hope of an ailing nation. A democratically elected ruling dynasty became an autocracy and just like the independence movements, it was conceived that something not so political will hold the solution. But truth be told, the JP movement was never more than a zeitgeist guided revolution. It was true that people were angry and hell bent on taking on the government. It was also true that JP was the most felicitous leader for this kind of a movement. But in reality, the proponents had no idea how the movement could be steered to bring any real change in the governance. And finally when the emergency was revoked 21 months later in 1977, the revolution that set the writing in the wall, dissipated in the grand dream of independent India, and ironically also of those politicians who always set their eyes on the crown. JP made a final call, and one that would go down in the annals of Indian history, as the one that consumed the very movement he himself took forward.

The formation of an alliance
Another JP was brought to existence; the Janata Party Group. All parties that extended their support to the movement right from JP's procession in Bihar to the slew of arrests, were now brought under the umbrella of a unified political outfit, touted as the panacea of the nation, and not just another prosaic political move. It's tough to pass on judgments on whether JP as an abbreviation was intelligently used to strike complete association with JP, the leader, but it was surely a brilliant move. The JP in Jaiprakash now molded into the JP of the Janata Party, and the times were about to change. While this was not the first time efforts were put in to usurp the Congress government, but this was the first time it actually seemed possible. And boy did everybody rejoice the final outcome!

JP, the party, won the majority with the real JP clearly not interested in leading the government. Just like Anna Hazare's aversion to assuming a position where powers are vested by a verdict, JP too said no to the idea of ruling the alliance of multiple parties, and Morarji Desai was elected as the PM. While the new govt began with an all out assault on everyone who could be indited in any cases, specifically for those pertaining to the era of emergency, it was absolutely deprived of any vision at all. While opprobrium on previous leaders and initiation of appropriate legal action against convicts was taken forward just as promised, the new government didn't know what else to do apart from spreading some scrimmage. And then suddenly, even the cases that were brought up against all the erstwhile ministers blew away like a squib. Janata Party's government was reeling under absolute doldrums. They kept losing support on all issues, and even the furrows within the party started running deep and visible. Suddenly leaders who were till now compatriots for a cause, started terming each other nefarious. Acrimony ran deep specially between the then PM Morarji Desai and Chaudhary Charan Singh, the PM in waiting. Finally, all the glory and gravitas faded when more and more leaders began quitting the party. The PM resigned and Charan Singh was appointed the new PM with an absolutely debilitating support of a mere 64 MPs. The revolution was busted, the hopes were extirpated, and Indira Gandhi, who actually lost to Raj Narain in the 77' elections, now once again became the only political solution. And ironically, it was in 79' itself when with the death of the JP in power, JP the revolutionary also passed away. The revolution that could have brought so much if utopia was now history.

Leaders who came out as a result of the JP movement
Most of the leaders left the party and took it upon themselves to stick to some core ideologies, most of which were at loggerheads with each other during their combined rule. What came out as a result were revamped parties like SP, BSP, RJD and so on. BJP too was a spun off from JP with Vajapayee and Advani actually winning sole two seats for their party in the 84' elections, but an entire plethora of parties were now formed with roots and anchors from the JP movement. You can see most of these parties ruling in various states today in pretty much the same fashion as Congress once did, against which they so gleefully hurled tirades and calumnies. In fact some of them went on to become more pernicious and corrupt than Congress itself(Apart from BJP which based on ideologies perpetrated by Hindu watchdogs like RSS and VHP ,realized that joining JP was a grim mistake and rescinded any changes they made in themselves. In short they went back to the olden ways.) In a way a revolution that started off to terminate the hegemony of the Congress party, resulted in a myriad of parties which did the same and some of which took it to a whole new level. Corruption, deception, gory politics, you name it and some party from the JP cadre would beat Congress to it any single day. In reality, JP the leader, even in his wildest of dreams, wouldn't have realized that what he did by deciding to go for a congregation of parties to take the revolution forward, was going to result in a mess that was to last for generations to come. A revolution died a miserable death!

Jump back to 2012, and you'll find more similarities than you'll find in any other comparison. One leader who vowed not to get into direct politics was leading a revolution from the front, citing the need for change. Yes this time the campaign did bring a draft of the Lokpal bill, suggesting that it was the real deal to move ahead. However, just impelling a draft to the cabinet and thinking it'll get passed with hunger strikes and corteges was never going to work. So all in all, the IAC movement too was completely dynamic and unplanned ever since the beginning. While everyone who shows the courage to shout at the government from a lectern becomes a hero, IAC had many heroes whom people were ready to embrace at the drop of a hat. There was cacophony, there were tricks in their repertoire, there was a desi yogi who could even spring up some quality entertainment, and all in all the nation felt the deep urge to commiserate with this revolution. But did the apostates set up against the government know what was to happen when the much needed support from the people was going to come their way? Probably not.

While today it may actually appear as a gambit that the IAC was to culminate into yet another party AAP, it's pretty possible that it was not the part of the plan, if there was a plan to begin with of course. Maybe Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal sought to see how the revolution would pan out and how they could actually see the Lokpal bill get passed. But with a government that would never accede so easily, it was imbecilic of both of them to think that even their deaths could have forced the government to relent, let alone prolonged hunger strikes. So just like what happened 3 decades back during the JP fracas, here too a revolution stalled at a crossroads where the revolutionaries had no idea what to do. While back in 1975 there were many lackeys within the movement who might have suggested a political solution in the form of a new party by amalgamation of multiple parties, here too maybe Arvind Kejriwal and others might have conceived a new party as the only way out of the not so impressive position that they were at. They either had to put Anna's life on the line, knowing that the possibility of his eventual death would be quashed by the government by thwarting the very revolution through use of brute force. Or they had to just wait for the government to take some action which was never going to happen. The jist of the tale is that they didn't have a plan. And whosoever was going to come up with any plausible idea, was going to become the next champion of the movement. And so Arvind's AAP became the sole beneficiary of the revolution just like Janata Party. And Anna Hazare saw his grand old vision get ruthlessly expunged in front of his eyes, with maybe he knowing himself how cretinous it was for them to start off a revolution against the mighty government without a proper plan in mind.

While a couple of days ago, the AAP mutilated all opposition in Delhi just like Janata Party did back in 77', strife and chasm within the party has already begun to emerge, once again just like it happened with the premiership of Morarji Desai in 79'. In 2012, Anna stood out as the blue eyed boy of the masses and Arvind Kejriwal was just another anchorite among various others, just like Morarji Desai sided with JP while many others were in contention for being the most subservient follower. As long as a revolution is a revolution, people don't follow much of a structure or hierarchy. There are no tsars and no hirelings. Everyone has the right to be audacious, everyone has the right to be full of temerity and everyone has a right to act like a leader. But when a revolution gets squeezed, squirting the juice in a political party, all the principles of equality and participation become mere rhapsody from the past and structure and thorough leadership and mechanism assumes priority.

The Janata Party or the Aam Aadmi Party were not inherent vices in any way. They were the outcomes of two different revolutions convoluted in the backdrop of sustained struggle. Both of them were noble in that they were not just another political party coming out with the archetypal commandments and promises, but that they had the provenance of their respective movements. However, both of them were also the victims of a an evanescent fanaticism, which rose to the brim during these revolutions and which suddenly made everyone associated believe that the momentum was powerful enough for the revolutions to turn political. and that these parties would stay true to their original ideologies eternally. It seems like no matter how big a resistance you pile up against the excrescences of politics, without proper direction and guidance, every such battle will finally be fought on political grounds with someone from the revolution holding the reins of the revolution and plunging it in sacrificial fire, because no other solution seemed to exist. It makes sense to note that even in the pre-independence era, politics and influence over politics were often used as weapons for accomplishing righteous motives. However, one should know that a war in the Colosseum of politics was not the only solution, like it now seems after the climax of these two revolutions, spread long over time to feel that it is the norm and the rule.

Maybe AAP will someday accomplish what JP couldn't and maybe despite being in politics the flavor of their rule would be very diiferent. Maybe they'll turn Delhi into one big Elysium by giving all those freebies and ushering the golden era of a fearless unbridled metropolis. But as for now, they seem to be a touch too embroiled in the rigmarole of their own existence and history. As long as Arvind Kejriwal remained the sole face of the revolution, he was the hero of everyone from all sects. But the moment he became the portico of a political party, other contenders, who behind the scenes may have put in 10X the effort, are bound to feel victimized. And just like animosity developed all around a once profound Morarji Desai within just two years of his rule, Arvind Kejriwal too shall have to face some flak, which if he is not politically adroit, is going to splatter him away in the malestrom of a a common phenomenon; the phenomenon of failed revolutions, and the idea of every such revolution ending up in yet another political party. Now will AAP be able to face the heat of its own constituents and pass through the fallacies of its own formation? That's something only time will tell. What do you think?

What now? 

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