The dawn of 2012 looks very much like the dawn of 2011. A year ago, it seemed as if corruption was here to stay, as if “We, the People” didn’t care about the scams and scandals, as if there was nobody to take the lead, as if the political and bureaucratic class was united in its efforts to stall any form of institutional mechanism to bring the corrupt to book, etc.
If someone has just woken up from a year-long coma, it would seem as if nothing has moved or changed.
Except that “We, the People” did care; except that somebody did stand up; except that the nation went through an anti-corruption movement thrice if not four times; except that the government and the opposition successfully stymied every effort to put in place a “strong and effective” Lok Pal; except that the house of the people was used to mock the wish of the people.
But there is also one key difference. Thanks to a cynical year-long smear campaign aided by pro-establishment sections of the media—and the foolhardy partisanship of India Against Corruption which turned the campaign into India Against Congress Corruption—the crusaders now stand as discredited as the crooked and the corrupt they sought to bring in line. And the long and tiring attempt to draft the legislation now seems to have taken the wind out of the anti-corruption sails and public interest in it, as can be evidenced by the meek reception in Bombay.
With last week’s televised theatrics by the “people’s representatives” in the Lok Sabha and the “states’ representatives” in the Rajya Sabha, a big question mark hangs over the battle against corruption. Will Anna Hazare‘s campaign ever regain the same amount of attention? Will corruption as an issue ever gain the same kind of traction? Will Lok Pal ever see the light of day? Or, is corruption as an issue dead and buried unless something truly mammoth and dramatic happens?