When Idealism Makes Way For Opportunism

By Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu

Notwithstanding its anti-democratic suggestions and a complete contempt for constitutional processes, the secret 8th chapter of the Srikrishna Committee (SKC) has done us few favors. It has exposed the idealists who harp on a new political culture and also the devious plans of the Centre.

When this committee was constituted in January 2010 to study the situation in Andhra Pradesh and suggest measures to break the deadlock, there was hope in some sections of people while a majority from Telanagana region doubted what the committee would achieve. The impeccable integrity of the committee members was eulogized by none other than Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, the president of the Loksatta Party which came into political life with the slogan of ushering in a new political culture. This is what he said about the committee members. “Its members have no personal axe to grind. Their impartiality and credibility are impeccable and above board.”

What surprised me and a lot of other people was the studied silence of both Dr JP and his party on the SKC report and the secret chapter. They have neither made any comments on the contents of the report nor demanded that the entire report be made public (considering Dr JP was one of the members of the NAC which was instrumental in finalizing the RTI act and a strong advocate of transparency in functioning of the Govt).

The judgement of Justice L Narsimha Reddy ordering the central Govt to release chapter 8 completely (the judgement has since been challenged by the central Govt in a division bench of the High court) on 23rd March revealed parts of chapter 8 verbatim. The excerpts were shocking to say the least. As part of a special 3 page supplement suggesting ways to manage the fourth pillar of democracy, the media, it said, “The print media is hugely dependent on the Government for advertisement revenue and if carefully handled can be an effective tool to achieve this goal. However, the RTI Act may prove to be an impediment for the Government to deny due share of ads to publications supporting the Telangana demand.” Quite ironic that the SKC saw the RTI act as an impediment to anti democratic processes.

Many activists known for their honesty have severely criticized the SKC for such anti- democratic recommendations. Prashant Bhushan, a member of the Joint Drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill) had this to say about the recommendations. “It was unethical for a former SC Judge to recommend in his report that government should engage in media management and political management to defuse the Telangana agitation.”

The South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) also had harsh words for the committee. “The suggestion seeks to legitimize a practice, used at times clandestinely by authorities, especially in the states against `sections of the media considered inconvenient by them’. This should be rejected forthwith by the government.”

It’s a no brainer that Dr JP has never been a big fan of the Telangana movement and its ways. His silence after the brutal police offensive on girl students in OU on 14th February, 2010 also corroborates this. But this silence is particularly surprising going by Dr JP’s earlier remarks of credibility and integrity of the members. He is known as somebody who reacts at every violation of constitution and the rights of citizens.

I can only think of two possible reasons for his silence. One is that he does not want to say anything that will directly or indirectly strengthen the movement for Telangana. The second one is that he agrees with the contents in toto or does not find anything wrong with the contents of the 8th chapter.

Either way, the silence of Dr JP cannot hide the obvious shift in his party’s values. Finally idealism has made way for opportunism and it is sad that the new political culture is now part of the old style of opportunism.

Time for us to look for a new political party that can show us a new political culture not just in words, but also in their deeds.

Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu has worked as a Software Engineer for Oracle, is part of a NGO named Bhumi and a renowned RTI activist. He is currently based in Warangal.

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