CHURUMURI POLL: Citizens above Parliament?

The Lok Pal debate has been a tragicomedy on a roller-coaster. One minute, civil society is up, the next moment the establishment is up, or some other section of civil society. One minute, civil society is screaming in agony, the next moment it is screaming in relief and delight. And so on.

If the original fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar by Anna Hazare was intended to convey that Parliament with all its infirmities was not the sole repository of all wisdom and that “We, the People” too could play a part in the law-making process, the second at Ram Lila ground showcased people power if the establishment forgot the rules of fairplay.

The Lok Pal smorgasbord remains as messy as ever, but both sides are losing no opportunity to shadow-box each other. The bureaucrat turned RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who is part of Team Anna, has now said that Anna Hazare is above Parliament and so indeed is every citizen of India.

“Every citizen is above Parliament…. The citizen has every right to tell the Parliament that it has not done the job. Citizens are more important than Parliament. Anna Hazare and every citizen is supreme. It is in the Constitution,” Kejriwal told Karan Thapar in the CNN-IBN program, Devil’s Advocate.

Kejriwal’s new line does two things. It turns what has so far been a battle between sections of civil society and the government into one against Parliament—government, opposition, the whole lot.

And it seeks in an abrasive sort of way to redefine and redraw the role of elected representatives who generally give the impression of considering their election as a licence to to do anything till the next election.

Broadly, Kejriwal’s stentorian line tallies with the questionable attempt by Team Anna to gherao ministers and MPs’ houses, as if all those who disagree with the Jan Lok Pal bill are enemies of India. Nevertheless, placing the citizen above the representative he has elected and their collective, is fraught with possibilities.

So, is Kejriwal right or is he playing with fire?