»The Honest Truth by Ajit Dayal

The arrogance of the powerful
17 AUGUST 2011

Those in power tend to believe they have a right to be there.

And anyone who questions that power - or challenges it - is an enemy of the State.

Their State.

So Mrs. Gandhi - for all her credentials as the daughter of one of India's key freedom fighters - imposed the Emergency in June 1975 and shovelled thousands into jails all across India. All this because the basis of her being in power had been successfully challenged in a court of law and she felt no need to heed the verdict of the courts.

And now we have the government putting freedom fighter Anna Hazare into jail, in anticipation of trouble. His intended crime? He wants to lead a protest march to root out corruption.

The crime is not that he is corrupt - though the Congress government is probably making attempts to find something ugly from his past - but that Anna Hazare wants to fight corruption. By the creation of a Lok Pal.

The August 10th issue of the Economic Times has this comment from Congress leader Rashid Alvi:

"Nothing happens by sitting on fast at Jantar Mantar. Anna Hazare and his team should find constitutional ways to get their demands accepted," Congress leader Rashid Alvi said.

"If the legislation (Lokpal bill) is not according to their choice, instead of taking the unconstitutional way, they should make their candidates fight the next general elections, come to parliament and get their legislation," Alvi said.

Congress leader Mr. Alvi is right.

The Home Minister, P. C. Chidambaram, echoed his views. According to a report in Business Standard on August 16th on the arrest of Anna Hazare:

"Police met Anna Hazare this morning and he told them that he intended to defy the prohibitory orders. At that time, police came to a conclusion that he will commit a congnisable offence. They invoked article 107 and 151 of CrPC which calls for preventive measures," he told a press conference.

Chidambaram was replying to a volley of questions on why Delhi Police detained Hazare and his supporters even before they defied the prohibitory orders.

He said around 1,200-1,300 people have been detained across the national capital. Six members of Team Anna Hazare were also detained, he said.

Chidambaram said if Hazare and his supporters were not happy with the conditions imposed by the Delhi Police for their proposed stir they could have challenged it in a court of law.

"They are free to go to court even now," the Home Minister said.

He also ridiculed Hazare's contention that their Jan Lok Pal Bill draft has to be considered, saying, "Laws cannot be made by social activists in a maidan."

That last sentence hit me: Laws cannot be made by social activists in a maidan.

That is, indeed, very true.

Mahatma Gandhi did not set the laws of an independent India in a maidan.

Nor did Martin Luther King set the laws that gave equality to blacks in a maidan.

Nor did the women who fought for their right to vote three hundred years ago change the law in a maidan.

They began the awareness of the wrongs in a maidan.

The laws were changed in bodies built by the constitution.

This fits beautifully with Rashid Alvi's statement that Hazare should stand for election.

Chidambaram is saying make all the noise you want in a maidan, but you cannot change any laws.

Alvi is saying come meet me in Parliament and lets settle this issue there.

Very consistent. Very logical.

That is, if you are a tyrant.

Is Congress turning into an intolerant beast?

Imagine what would have happened if Mahatma Gandhi was dealing with Hitler. He would probably have been executed in 30 seconds. End of freedom struggle for a few decades.

Or if Martin Luther King was dealing with Hitler and wanted equal rights for the black race?

Well, we know what happened to the Jews who wanted to be treated as human beings.

Luckily, Mahatma Gandhi dealt with the British - who had a conscience and listened to the voices of those who had no seats in their governing councils. No seats in their Parliament.

Martin Luther King's blacks had no seats in most government bodies. But he dealt with people who could reason, who could understand the desire to improve the state of a large minority population. Hence, he succeeded.

The woman fighting for the chance to get elected had no seats in Parliament - the men sitting there had to change it. And change the rules they did.

What chance does an Anna Hazare party - with no access to corporate funding, with no ability to give gifts to win votes - have to win an election? To win enough seats in Parliament to change the laws?

An Ancient Chinese emperor, on hearing that the peasants could not afford to buy rice to eat said, "Why don't they eat meat?"

Or the great French princess who - on hearing that her subjects had no bread - said, "Why don't they eat cake?"

Over the last decades, I felt happy that the Congress was elected back into power - even though with coalition partners.

But are our political leaders - across parties - getting arrogant?

Even if 1.2 billion Indian are not present in the maidan, is there any doubt that a majority of people of India are fed up with corruption?

True, Anna Hazare's mission may start attracting media-hungry god men and film stars but that does not dilute the desire to get rid of corruption.

The fight against corruption does not stop.

The Congress has a party manifesto and a mission - but Suresh Kalmadi is a member (and in the same jail as Anna Hazare). Does that mean that the Congress Party needs to shut down? That the Party's mission or reason for existence is no longer relevant?

Dictator or Representative? Asset Gatherer or Asset Manager?

Those in power must ask themselves why they sit in those seats of power.

If they believe they represent the wishes of the people, the path they will take is clear.

If they believe they are guarding some family fiefdom or some ancestral birth right that is perpetually theirs to own, then the path will be clear - and very different.

Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and much of the Middle East is immersed in a struggle between those who want change and those who fight to retain some ancestral god-bestowed right to rule.

And we have that same dictatorial attitude in the mutual fund industry where every fund house out there is more focused on how much money they collect from investors rather than what good they actually do for their investors.

They are a brand name, they are large - what they do must be right.

And must never be questioned.

They have an asset management license, but they are in the business of asset gathering.

And if any Chairman of SEBI changes the rules of the maidan that they play in, they will lobby for his removal. Like they probably did with Mr. Bhave.

We all know the truths that we must fight for. We all know the outcomes of a corrupt society - after all, we live in one! Sitting in a maidan may not be a fun thing to do whether you are Anna Hazare or C. B. Bhave, but freedom from corruption and equality are wonderful things to fight for.

Count me in.

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Disclaimer: The Honest Truth is authored by Ajit Dayal. Ajit is a Director at Quantum Advisors Pvt. Ltd and Quantum Asset Management Company Pvt. Ltd. The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and has not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author, Equitymaster, Quantum AMC and Quantum Advisors do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site. To write to Ajit, please click here.