'Has Anna made a mistake?' Pertie and I were watching the news and this was his comment not just on the night's fare but the full week's offerings. "Does he really believe he, or anyone for that matter, is above Parliament?"
"I think the logic behind the claim stems from the fact that our Constitution begins with the words 'We the people'. So if the people come first and have created the Constitution they must be above its institutions, including Parliament."
I think Pertie snorted or that's what it sounded like. It was clearly derisory. "Perhaps the people of India are collectively above Parliament but for any individual or group to make that claim is ludicrous. Isn't that the sort of thing Charles the first used to say? Or Louis the fourteenth?"
"Oh come," I said, wondering whether Pertie was serious. "That's a far-fetched comparison."
"Maybe," but Pertie wasn't being conciliatory. This was more like a tactical concession before the final strategic thrust. "But it's a damned silly thing for a man who's supposed to be a Gandhian saint to say. It can so easily be misunderstood and that, in turn, can take the shine off his halo."
However, Pertie wasn't finished. In fact he was just getting into his stride. "I'm disturbed by his repeated insistence that Parliament pass his Jan Lokpal Bill and none other. It's a defiance of the Parliament's right to pass whatever bill it thinks fit. Whilst each one of us can protest and complain about what Parliament does or doesn't do, to insist that it follow our dictates is another matter. It's subordinating Parliament to our personal preference. Remember Parliament represents the collective will of the country. By definition that's greater than any individual."
I could hardly deny Pertie's logic so I decided, instead, to explore his thinking. How far did his disillusionment with Anna Hazare go? The last time we discussed the anti-corruption crusader, Pertie was a firm, if not fervent, supporter. Now I was hearing a different voice.
"Well, I'm in two minds about his decision to campaign against Congress. I can see that he intends it as pressure to pass his Lokpal Bill. And if I can rant and rave against the ruling party when the taps run dry or the lights fail, why can't Anna advise people to vote against the Congress over the lokpal issue? But there is a flip side. And Anna seems to have lost sight of it."
Rather than explain, Pertie inexplicably stopped and started to stare at me. It was like one of those tests for children where you check if they can finish the sentence. "Go on," I said irritably. "What's the other side?"
"Anna's influence comes from the fact he's perceived to be above politics. He's neither BJP and Congress nor anything else. But now, when he adopts an anti-Congress stand, he's suddenly taking sides. He's stepped down from Mount Olympus and entered the common fray. Consequently, he's in danger of becoming a politician like any other MP or MLA."
"So what does this amount to?" I was sure Pertie had reached some conclusion and I needed to hear it.
"Just that if Anna isn't careful, he could end up undermining himself. If the press plays up his silly comments, they may well damage him. If they don't - and perhaps they won't - he'll get away unharmed. But, in a way he hasn't done before, he's placed his future in the hands of fickle hacks!"
The views expressed by the author are personal