Don’t know why people are backing Hazare: Tharoor

Mumbai: Holding that those backing Anna Hazare's movement against corruption don't know what they are for, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has said the Jan Lokpal will create a "supra-institution" that would be a law unto itself.

"It would have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish. If this kind of power falls into the wrong hands then the cure (to corruption) can turn out to be worse than the disease," Tharoor said during an interactive session on day one of the the Mumbai literature festival, Literature Live, here last night.

On Hazare's movement, Tharoor spoke of its potential to turn into a powerful, oppressive institution like the Spanish Inquisition.

"When the Catholic church created the inquisition, they thought it will be an agent for good. That it will preserve and protect the religion. But within a very few years, it turned into an authoritarian nightmare," the former Minister of State for External Affairs said.

On the agitation for the Jan Lokpal Bill, he said, "It doesn't solve the problem of petty corruption because every hospital won't have a Lokpal. And it will also require 20,000 people to implement it. If they're presuming that all government employees are corrupt, where will they find the 20,000 saints to man the posts?"

Hazare is a "74-year-old saintly individual", Tharoor said. "However, people who turned out in support of him are aware of what they are against corruption but they don’t know what they are for."

"Do people want a supra-institution that has the power to investigate, prosecute and punish anyone form the prime minister to the judiciary? In the hands of someone less saintly, it can be damaging," he said.


Pulitzer prize winning American journalist and author Thomas Friedman, who was with Tharoor in the discussion, 'Two brilliant minds exchange provocative ideas', said Hazare's movement had a "groundswell" of public sentiment.

"Is Hazare the leader or symbol of the movement? He didn't really create the Jan Lokpal Bill and then inspire people to get behind it. It was written by a band of activists who then chose Hazare to be the face of their campaign. He is more a symbol of the movement rather than the leader. So he's not a leader in the way that Gandhi, Napoleon or Stalin were."

Friedman, who spoke about his bestselling books, "The World is Flat" and "That used to be Us" at the literature festival, said that in the past decade, the state of American education, infrastructure and capital formation has fallen tremendously.

"The American political system is completely broken and paralysed," Friedman said. "It perhaps needs shock therapy in the form of a third political party," he said.