Thursday, November 17, 2011

BJP wants to shut down Lok Ayukta in Karnataka….

I was surprised to read in the papers today that KS Eshwarappa – President of BJP in Karnataka – has suggested that the institution of Lok Ayukta be shut down in Karnataka. His immediate provocation? Ex Lok Ayukta SP, Madhukar Shetty, commented that there was corruption in the Lok Ayukta’s office itself.

Actually, the BJP has been struggling in Karnataka ever since the former Lok Ayukta, Justice Hegde levied the corruption charges against Yeddy. First Yeddy refused to resign as CM. Later, after much dilly dallying, when he was forced out, he installed a puppet CM who was happy to do Yeddy’s bidding. As soon as Yeddy came out of jail on bail, the first move taken by the CM was to transfer the Additional DG of the Lok Ayukta, Mr. Jeevan Kumar V Gaonkar forcing Justice Hegde to complain that the move was intended at sabotaging the probe against Yeddy. This suggestion from the BJP President to shut down the Lok Ayukta indicates the kind of thinking that prevails in the party. On the one hand, LK Advani is on a nation wide yatra – supposedly against corruption. On the other hand, he is unable to control his own party unit in Karnataka. In all of this, where is the BJP national President Nitin Gadkari? Why is he not commenting on what is going on in Karnataka? Is he a strong President or a weakling?

Another newspaper report points out that Yeddy is refusing to campaign for his party in Bellary. One would have thought that this was obvious, considering that he had been sacked as the CM. With what face would he go to Bellary asking the people for his vote? But then Yeddy is Yeddy. He is apparently waiting for some sort of a welcome back from his party headquarters before he agrees to campaign. I am surprised that the party headquarters have not rushed to pull him out of campaigning. Again, there is absolutely no statement from the party about what it plans to do with Yeddy.

But shutting down the Lok Ayukta is a drastic view. I understand the CM Sadanand Gowda has said that the institution will not be shut down. But the very fact that the party President could even think of such a possibility indicates the amount of disgruntlement that exists in the party on this issue. The Congress is known to abhor the entire Lokpal issue, but is the BJP any different really? Again, is there any attempt by the BJP headquarters to reign in their state President? None that I have heard of.

Justice Hegde has admitted that there may be cases of corruption in the Lok Ayukta’s office as well. But atleast there is no doubt about his own personal integrity, unlike other Team Anna members. Again unlike other Team Anna members, Justice Hegde has never taken a holier than thou attitude towards corruption. He is clear he wants to fight corruption, but he’s not got distracted by other issues. His attitude has been one of finding a negotiated solution with the government. He has been opposed to campaigning against the Congress. He has been upset with Team Anna for the loud statements they have been making. This is what separates him from the rest of the pack.

I am also wondering why Team Anna is not standing up in support of Justice Hegde. So much has been happening in Karnataka. The BJP government is also making an attempt to appoint former Kerala Chief Justice Bannurmath as the new Lok Ayukta – in spite of the controversy surrounding him about an allegedly illegal acquisition of a residential plot of land at the Judicial layout in contravention of norms. When the CM was quizzed about this controversy, the CM quipped “Who does not have allegations? It is very difficult to spot such a person”. It’s one thing for the CM to make such a controversial recommendation. It is another thing entirely to take such matters so lightly. Yet, in spite of all this, Team Anna has been absolutely silent on all the developments in Karnataka. I wonder why.

The BJP has of course decided to pass a weak (as weak as the Central government’s Lokpal Bill apparently) Lok Ayukta Act in Bihar as well. Of course, the BJP is a junior partner here, but again, it must be embarrassing for the party that it’s unable to impress upon Nitish Kumar the need to making the law tougher. In fact, today’s papers report that Nitish has accepted nearly a 100 recommendations, but he’s not accepted even one from Team Anna. In fact, Nitish appears to be so upset with Team Anna that he’s decided the Lok Ayukta will not even be called that. Instead he will be called Chairman! Nitish is merrily cocking a snook at Anna – and the BJP is observing all this silently. If this is not the compulsions of coalition politics, what is? If the party is unable to handle the compulsions of coalition politics itself, why does it chide the Congress of the same?

In the meantime, the Standing Committee seems to be reaching a conclusion on most of the points that it is considering. From what one reads in the papers, the final Bill is going to be some sort of a compromise between the Government’s version of the Lokpal Bill and Anna’s JLP. Will it be acceptable to Team Anna or will Anna go on another fast from end-December? I have a feeling that the Lokpal bill has now become a bit of an ego issue – with Team Anna unable to retract from its hardline position. I think a face-off is about to happen; and if that happens, it will plunge the country into another round of chaos. That will put the government into another deep freeze – and the country will suffer yet again.

The real truth is that the BJP is that Karnataka is a state that has spun out of the BJP’s control. The ex CM of the state does what he wants to do – and the BJP can do nothing about it. Instead of accusing other parties of having a weak leadership, it would be good if the BJP introspected on its own weaknesses…..

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