Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Lok Ayukta clause exposes the true colors of all political parties…..

The meeting called by the PM yesterday brings out the truth about the status of the Lokpal Bill and the positions of various parties vis-Ă -vis the bill and Anna Hazare. Today’s papers are worth a read. None of the issues matters to the political class except one: The prescription of a Lok Ayukta law under the central Lok Pal bill. One would have thought that that clause was at the heart of the understanding the Parliament had given Anna late last year. What happened to that commitment? And why is Anna still not attacking the duplicity of certain political parties on this key aspect of the Bill?

In the heated moments of the last stretch of Anna’s fast, every political party strained itself to be seen on his side. In a ridiculous display of political opportunism and desperation, several top leaders of these parties even shared a public platform with Anna in Delhi. And when each of them spoke, the only points they touched upon were the points on which they agreed with Anna. Not one of them raised the issues where they disagreed with Anna. After all, who wanted to get booed out by the crowds there? But as soon as the tempers cooled down, the real colors of the parties have started to show.

The sense of the House resolution passed “unanimously” by Parliament read as under: "This House agrees 'in principle' on following issues -- (i) citizens' charter, (ii) lower bureaucracy under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism, and (iii) establishment of Lokayukta in the states."

The Central government in December introduced the “Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011” to cover the first commitment of the Sense of the House resolution. The only point of disagreement with Anna on this is on whether it should be an independent act (as proposed by the Government) or a part of the Lokpal Act (as Anna would like it to be). While some people may keep debating it, the fact is that the subject is largely getting addressed. Likewise, the lower bureaucracy has been brought under the Lokpal through an “appropriate mechanism” – via an indirect mechanism through the CVC. That leaves only the 3rd point open.

The 3rd point was introduced by the Central government as part of the Lokpal Bill – the bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha. The same bill that got jammed in the Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha is where the opposition gets to play its cards the best – since it’s a house that the ruling dispensation doesn’t control. And just see what’s emerging from the Rajya Sabha.

The BJP, the Left, and virtually all regional parties are opposed to the Lok Ayukta clause being there in the Lokpal Bill. Weren’t these the same parties that had resolutely supported Anna and the Sense of the House Resolution? Wasn’t the Congress supposedly the only party that was opposed to Anna and the Lokpal construct? What’s going on here? Are we reading the reports wrong or what? Is it the BJP that is opposing the Lok Ayukta clause? Never before had the party said this. Jaitley never mentioned it on the public platform he shared with Anna. In Parliament, when the Sense of the House Resolution was being passed, it was the BJP that wanted the resolution to include these three specific points. Wasn’t it Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) who had said that “every word, every comma, every full stop” of the resolution will be included in the Bill?

Political parties are known to be turncoats. And the Congress is no exception either. But for the people of this country, it is important to be able to dissect issues and put the blame appropriately on those who deserve it. The Congress deserved the blame for the way it initially tried to steamroll the movement. But now the BJP and the opposition need to be blamed for their complete U-turn on the Lok Ayukta issue.

But has Anna put the blame on the BJP? No. Not once has Anna or his team squarely blamed the BJP or the Left. If this was political smartness (befriending the opposition to put pressure on the ruling dispensation), that would be understandable to a point. But if the befriending is causing the entire objective to get diluted, then why continue with it any further? In fact, by blindly supporting the BJP and opposing the Congress, Anna is responsible for having derailed the movement. Had it been a citizens v/s politicians battle, there would have been far more support for the movement. It would also have been more sustainable. I doubt now if the movement can ever be resuscitated. Timing is everything in politics. And being smart about making the right compromises is part of every successful struggle. Gandhiji made several compromises with the British – but he moved towards the ultimate goal with patience and determination. The Anna movement on the other hand wanted it all in one step. Now the country may get nothing at all.

The moot question is: Why is Anna not making a frontal attack on the BJP and the Left? Is it to do with the kind of team he has? Isn’t there more to the attack on the Congress than just a keen desire to put pressure on the ruling dispensation? Are Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan more anti-Congress than pro-Lokpal? Is there a clash of objectives taking place here? Is Anna not savvy enough to see through this? Or is he trapped in an organization structure that he is unable to break?

It’s only been in bits and pieces that Anna has moved on from his acute anti-Congress stance. After fighting the Congress in Hisar, he directed his workers not to make the fight party specific in UP. He does appear to be a lot less vitriolic compared to six months back, but is that because of his own personal health reasons? Or does he realize all political parties are alike? But till date, Anna hasn’t been able to reclaim the high ground that being apolitical make available.

Will the Lokpal Bill ever get passed or will it become a long lasting political issue between parties? Going by the goings-on, I doubt it will ever become a reality. And if it doesn’t, the political class (all parties included) would have outsmarted Anna. The next crucader may want to learn from this entire episode.

The real truth is that Anna made a fatal mistake by making his movement political. By doing so, he lost the opportunity to give the country a Lokpal Bill – no matter how weak or strong. Acts can be amended. But getting the first one in place takes a lot of effort. That important first move has been missed…..

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