is that they can’t work with people with whom they have minor differences – which is where politicians easily trump them. Politicians are expert in the art of working out compromises and working with people with whom they have divergent beliefs. Of course, it creates “unholy coalitions” but you have to give it to the enterprise of the politicians (let’s not question their motivation here) to come together as a group and get stuff done.
With civil society types, however, as soon as they discover that there is something disagreeable about the other party, they’ll cry hoarse and refuse to work with them. So for example, if for some reason I come together with these “civil society” worthies for some cause, I’m sure they’ll all ditch me as soon as they come to know that I was a member of the RSS when I was eight years old.
Because of this, it is rare that civil society types come together for a cause, which is what makes people believe that the Anna Hazare-led protests of two weeks back were such a significant success. That this magnificent coalition hasn’t really lasted, and cracks are already coming up in the “civil society” half of the draft committee just goes to illustrate my point.
There can be exceptions to this of course – civil society people drawn from an extremely homogeneous distribution ARE capable of “getting things done”. Think National Advisory Council!
- Recently I read this joke, not sure where, which said that the American and Indian middle classes are feeling sad that they cannot take part in a revolution, unlike their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and other similar place. Instead, they can only vote
- There needs to be some sort of an antitrust law for political parties. There is currently little to distinguish between the policies of various political parties. For example, all parties favour a greater role for the government (more govt => more opportunity to make money on the side => more corruption, etc.) .
- Given the homogeneity in the political spectrum, there is little incentive to vote. This scoundrel may be only marginally better than that scoundrel, so why bother voting. So we have this large middle class which essentially removes itself from the political process (confession: I’m 28, and I’ve never voted. When my name’s in the list I’ve not been in town, and vice versa.)
- Now this Anna Hazare tamasha has suddenly woken up people who never bothered to vote, and who are pained with excessive corruption. So they’re all jumping behind him, knowing that this gives them the opportunity to “do something” – something other than something as bland and simple as voting.
- Supporters of Hazare care little about the implications of what they’re asking for. “Extra constitutional bodies”? “Eminent citizens”? Magsaysay award winners? Have you heard of the National Advisory Council? You seriously think you want more such institutions?
- The Lok Ayukta isn’t as useless an institution as some critics have pointed out. But then again, this is highly personality-dependent. So you have a good person as a “lok pal”, you can get good results. But what if the government decides to appoint a compliant scoundrel there? Have the protesters considered that?
- Basically when you design institutions, especially government institutions, you need to take care to build it in such a way that it’s not personality-dependent. Remember that you can have at TN Seshan as Election Commissioner, but you can also have a Navin Chawla.
- So when you go out in droves and protest, you need to be careful what you ask for. Just make sure you understand that.