It is media glare than real work

The word ‘corruption’ strikes a chord with all and sundry. Hence, an overwhelmed audience broke into thunderous applause every time the standard-bearers of the country’s anti-graft campaign delivered vitriolic speeches on the government’s failure to stem the rot.

Swami Nigamananda, a little-known ‘save the Ganga’ campaigner, succumbed to a protracted fast in June 2011, barely two months after the high priest of the anti-graft campaign, Anna Hazare, gave in to hunger pangs after a few foodless nights. While fervent followers and curious onlookers cheered 24/7, TV channels made it an event as the ailing abbot sipped at his glass of coconut water, while Nigamananda died a nondescript death. Since the shutter bugs did not click his skeletal frame to glory, the campaigner and his cause ran out of steam, while Anna Hazare and his men flourished.

Over the following frenzied months, the anti-graft campaigners have jumped tracks. Political aspirations have taken precedence over reinvigorating a morally decadent society and the focus has shifted from decrying corruption to riveting exposes on men in power and their shenanigans. Even as unscrupulous people are engrossed in saving the harvest of years of assiduous politicking from being blown to smithereens, what is worrisome is the prospect of a country, where the government is struggling to strike a balance between socialist sentiments and capitalist interests, buoyed by pomp and promise over substance.

Rattled government

In the summer of 2011 and subsequent months, when scores of dissident souls flocked protest venues in the national capital and elsewhere, the government was evidently rattled. A politically aware civil society could potentially sound the death knell for a government groping at every possible defence to emerge clean from the 2G swindle. At that juncture, the anti-graft campaigners seemed justified in their demand on an Ombudsman capacitated to put even the prime minister to guillotine.

Over the next 18 months, the working class, which once saw sweating and sloganeering under the sun as a respite from professional monotony, have sought repose in the comfort of multiplexes. Truant students have returned to classrooms. Even the government, which once begged anti-corruption campaigners to hold parleys, now bristles at every charge hurled at it. Clearly, the incendiary speeches no longer sting.
 The big question is: Who or what stubbed out the flickers that could have brought transparency in the perennially opaque bureaucracy and heralded an era of near-faultless governance? Did an individual grow bigger than the institution, to the discomfort of the colleagues? Or did the country finally realise that the glimmer of hope needs more than mud-slinging and sabre-rattling histrionics to gain radiance?
Chinks in the anti-graft armour became prominent after certain social activists with some credentials to their name dissociated themselves from the campaign, while dhoti-clad acrobats jumped into the fray, spitting invectives against the government for its alleged nonchalance to recover black money stashed abroad. Acrimonious undercurrents suggested that the rift was an upshot of a discord triggered by the absence of any worthwhile initiative to broom the dust off a tardy bureaucracy. Then came the shocker.  Hazare dissolved his advisory council and returned to his hamlet, chiding  Arvind Kejriwal and his compadres for nursing political ambitions.

What started as an anti-graft movement has now been reduced to vitriolic speeches against the country’s political echelon. The carefully orchestrated smear campaigns, days after Kejriwal laid bare his ambitions with the launch of a political outfit, reeks of the ‘malign and manoeuvre’ modus operandi. However, the choice of victims, fat cats from the ruling coalition and the Opposition, dispels apprehensions on the political acumen of the novice politician. With the mere sleight of a hand, Kejriwal has blackened the already battered Congress with copious amount of tar, snatched the anti-graft turf from BJP and projected himself as an apostle of neutrality, intolerant to fraudulence. However, his curious ways of trying to connect with the masses by defying the law of the land and displaying recalcitrance to authority, may eventually render him an ineffectual mass leader and a potentially disastrous ally, in line with the incumbent Bengal chief minister. The waylaid civil society movement has now been reduced to a springboard for select civilians, while the societal aspect has taken a backseat. A revival calls for a resolute show of selfless devotion on the lines of Nigamananda.

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