Participatory democracy = a process emphasizing the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems.
Citizens are not just voters. Democracy does not just come once every five years. The participation of citizens in the daily activities of democratic functioning is the hallmark of a vibrant democracy. And any democracy without a fifth pillar – a powerful and responsible civil society, would be lame duck.
A demonstration of a powerful civil society was visible when Anna Hazare and the citizenry of the country used peaceful coercion to kickstart a process of reforms. After 42 years, 6 rounds of rejections in the Parliament and complete ignoring of the entreaties of some of the eminent people of India – all avenues of normal democratic engagement were exhausted. There was no way except for Anna Hazare to stake his life for the nation, as Gandhiji had done before independence. If columnists and political leaders call this act as premature and blackmail, so be it.
Anna Hazare’s demand is for participation of the civil society in the formation of a committee to draft a strong anti-corruption bill. After the Bill is drafted, it will necessarily have to pass through all the democratic institutions including Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. It will not bypass any of the democratic structures.
You may go to Azad Maidan in Mumbai any day of the year and you’ll find scores who are sitting in hunger strike, unheard and unseen. The only reason, the government took cognizance is because of the moral stature of Anna Hazare, the right cause and tremendous public support. No government is going to listen to people who fast, without these criteria. Therefore, to assume that Anna Hazare’s fast has set up some precedent is incorrect.
Annaji somewhat irrelevant remark on the grass root development in Gujarat and Bihar has been twisted to mean support to Narendra Modi’s communal action and being pro-RSS and anti minority. Suppose I praised someone’s shoes- does it purport to supporting everything that he does, including wife-beating? 🙂
Finally, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan are both eminent lawyers and were part of the drafting of the Jan Lokpal Bill, along with Santosh Hegde and Arvind Kejriwal. They needed to be part of this technical drafting team as they had originally drafted the bill and would know the relevance and justification of each clause as they negotiate with the government.
Finally, here are some people trying to work on nation building in an organized and selfless manner and some of the media and activists are doing their utmost to scuttle their path. Why can’t we ever think straight, for God’s sake?