Pratap Bhanu Mehta critiques the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Anna Hazare and co. He says the bill, although a work in progress, is naive and idealistic:

Most of us are as aghast as any of the agitators about the evasions of government. But it does not follow that creating a draconian new institution that diminishes everything from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Supreme Court is a solution. The net result of a “Lokpal” will be to weaken the authority of even other well-functioning institutions. No agitation focuses on sensible, manageable reform of representative institutions; all agitative energies are premised on bypassing them. Perhaps some version of a Lokpal is desirable.

But the claim that the “people” are not represented by elected representatives, but are represented by their self-appointed guardians is disturbing. In a democracy, one ought to freely express views. But anyone who claims to be the “authentic” voice of the people is treading on very thin ice indeed. It is a form of Jacobinism that is intoxicated with its own certainties about the people. It is not willing to subject itself to an accountability, least of all to the only mechanism we know of designating representatives: elections. The demand that a Jan Lokpal Bill be drafted jointly by the government and a self-appointed committee of public virtue is absurd. Most of us sharply disagree with elected government on matters even more important than corruption. But no matter how cogent our arguments, it does not give us the right to say that our virtue entitles us to dictate policy to a representative process.

This is where it gets interesting: I am perfectly comfortable with the worst case scenarios he puts forward. But I’ve been called an anarchist before. As I see it, Mehta, although far more knowledgeable at policy, ironically,  looks like the idealist here: only elected representatives ought to speak for the people; power should have the same hierarchy, and so on. These are the exact reasons why we’re here in the first place.

Me, I’ll take a bit of chaos (Heck, I love chaos) because it is progress and I don’t see the worst case scenarios deviating much from the status quo. Therefore, I support Anna Hazare and wish him well.

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