Looking back at 2011

Although it is ‘Kolaveri Di’ which will go down as the biggest rage of 2011 that captured the nation’s attention, it is the common housewife in the TV commercial for a tea brand who uttered the line that captured the mood of the nation. She said, “Desh Ubhal Raha Hai.”  This one line tells the story of India in 2011.

India was on the boil in 2011.

UPA 2 is in retreat. Its reform agenda has hanged. India’s growth targets are in downward revision. Inflation remains untamed. The rupee is under severe attack. But the space vacated by the tottering ruling party and the coalition is not being claimed by the main opposition party and its allies. Instead the ground remains unfilled. 2011 showed that political parties are disconnected with the civil society. Parliament, political parties, their established leaders, media houses, corporate giants, and even governments faced challenges from both the usual as well as very unlikely quarters.

Governments – both at the centre and the states – were not the major movers and shakers in 2011. Nor were the political parties – either ruling or those in the opposition. People did not seem to trust any political party as their amanuensis for scripting protest. None of the parties, in their reckoning, has qualified to be a real game changer.

 Large crowds of young Indians poured onto the streets with candles in their hands. They raised their voices against corruption.  Political parties only tagged along, rather reluctantly. They were no longer the vanguard. 2011 saw even Parliament’s role as a law maker questioned. Union Government almost compromised the legislature’s prerogative to draft laws. It couldn’t dig in and fight for the Parliament’s privilege. It had to hold prolonged talks with a group that called itself the representative of ‘civil society.’ That was the only way open for the government to make up for its lost credibility in 2011.

When the well-heeled young marched the streets of our cities and towns, they looked up to Anna Hazare with whom they had little in common. They were unmindful of Rahul Gandhi who was perhaps someone very much like them. What can illustrate better the subversion of predictable patterns that 2011 brought about in the country than this?

2011 mercilessly unsettled the ground from under the feet of the big and the mighty. The Left Front of the Marxists was sent into wilderness after nearly three decades in power. Never before have so many political bigwigs and corporate honchos parked themselves in the jails of India on charges of corruption. Kanimozhi and A. Raja went to prison. So did Kalmadi and Sukh Ram. Corporate bosses gave them company in Tihar. A land scam claimed a Major-General’s scalp.

Despite truck loads of money and a state government beholden to him, the mining magnate Gali Janardhan Reddy of Bellary could not escape jail. Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Uttaranchal lost their jobs over allegations of corruption. Yeddiyurappa even did a stint in jail. Three of his predecessors are now under scanner. Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh is battling against a CBI probe order in the courts. The shine is wearing off from the late Rajasekhar Reddy regime. Corruption and financial embezzlement behind every flag-ship programme of his are surfacing one after the other.  The long hand of the law is inexorably stalking his son Jaganmohan Reddy.

The shifts are obvious for everybody to see.

They are, as we bid good bye to 2011 and welcomed 2012, the unmistakable signs of a breakdown of dialogue between the Indian polity and society.

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