Government-Anna Locks In On Lokpal UPA At Its Nadir
The good sheep giveth its life for the shepherd. This is the best instance of sticking to one’s duty—a good sheep will not mind sacrificing its duty for the protection of its shepherd. Dr Manmohan Singh-led UPA government is seemingly emulating this saying, as the Team Anna and the government representatives parted ways on the draft Lokpal Bill, failing to reach a consensus on the critical issue in nine meetings since April 8—it included its basic structure and the higher judiciary within the ambit of Lokpal. While Hazare announced his decision to go ahead with his fast on August 16 to teach the government a lesson, the government representatives said that both versions of the draft would go to an all-party meeting on July 3, after which it would endeavour sending a single draft to the Cabinet en route to Parliament. It is worth mentioning that both sides disagreed on a range of issues including Team Anna’s demand of videotaping the committee’s proceedings. Yet, the government maintained it had, in the process, succeeded in writing a stronger and better version of the bill. In fact, such is the state of government’s paralysis that even members of the Cabinet, senior leaders of the party and definitely its furious coalition partners all acknowledge with a shrug the government’s helplessness—or rather its obduracy. The paralysis in the government is matched by the confusion in the Congress party, as it is now getting the rap for all the scams that were unearthed during the Congress-led UPA government’s regime. Furthermore, the whisper machine talks of Sonia’s recent visit of Europe as some conspiracy to clean India’s wealth stashed away in foreign banks. But people of India cannot be befooled. They know who to trust and who to laugh at. But the Congress party is beating about the bush by treating its top leader’s visit abroad as some kind of a national secret—or rather keeping it so hush-hush. However, it can be devastating for a government, which is non-functional. In this backdrop, the ramifications of having a government in that condition at the centre, and that too for three years, can well be understood. Adding salt to the injury, the alleged bugging of the office of the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is burning into a hot potato. For, in the present scenario, there is allegedly overwhelming circumstantial evidence to suggest that elements within the Congress were bugging the office of their own FM.
Coming back to the issue of Lokpal Bill, a major reason for the rampant and widespread corruption is the lack of an independent, empowered, and accountable anti-corruption institution that can be trusted to credibly investigate complaints of corruption and prosecute the guilty. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is controlled by the very people who are the fountainheads of this corruption and is required to seek the permission of the very people who need to be investigated and prosecuted. The Central Vigilance Commissioner of India (CVC) is selected by the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and the Leader of Opposition, who have a vested interest in ensuring that weak bureaucrats get selected. Moreover, the CVC has only recommendatory powers and most of his or her recommendations are disregarded by the government, which wants to protect corrupt public servants. The courts take years to conclude trials and there is also considerable corruption in the judiciary because of the lack of accountability of the higher judiciary and the lack of an effective anti-corruption agency to investigate corruption within its ranks. Hence the demand for the constitution of an independent Lokpal institution! Now that the talks between the government and the Team Anna have ended, there are two things which need to be emphasised and brought to the notice of our countrymen. The first, Indians have a unique moment of opportunity—now to get a strong Lokpal Bill passed, they must not fall into the trap or the nefarious designs of the government to divide the Team Anna and us, the citizenry. It is only on the belief that Team Anna represents the voice of over one billion people that the government has grudgingly gone through the talks, as is evident from the watered down draft it has prepared, which shows its devilish intentions to enact a innocuous law to enable people in high places to get away from law. The second most important thing is if the Team Anna’s draft is to be adopted by Parliament, it will happen only under pressure of public opinion. So all of us must stand united by the Team Anna in this important hour of reckoning. For, the UPA government is losing a historic opportunity to gain credit for taking the right step at the right time. And any government or party that goes against the wishes of the people will do it at its own peril.