Tuesday, April 2, 2013

“Decisive” Modi amends Lok Ayukta Bill making it toothless….

The decisive leader of the BJP, and India if we are to listen to a faction (but only a faction) of the BJP, has decided. Decided in his own favor. Modi has said: enough is enough. It’s one thing for his party at the Center to rail against the “weak” Lokpal Bill proposed by the Congress, but quite another thing when it comes to protecting his own back side. Justice Mehta – his Governor imposed nemesis – has after all become a big pain for Modi – especially in a year in which he plans to pitchfork himself to the center; maybe even become PM. Change the law. That’s Modi’s firm decision!

And what is the foremost feature of this new amended Lok Ayukta Act? That the government will retain majority control in the panel that selects the Lok Ayukta. Aha….so the Lok Ayukta will be a Government puppet. Apart from the CM himself, another minister of the Government and the Speaker (also a ruling party member) will be part of the six member selection panel. That’s 50%. So under no circumstances can an “Justice Mehta like” Lok Ayukta ever be appointed. There is only one place for the Leader of the Opposition in the panel. There is also a High Court judge appointed by the Chief Justice (but not the CJ himself) on the panel. The sixth member is very interesting. It is the State Vigilance Commissioner (VC). I am not sure who selects the State VC, but a Google search reveals that the CM in the past has extended the tenure of another state VC. I think this indicates that it is the CM who also selects the VC. It is interesting to note that the current state vigilance commissioner (Dr. Manjula Subramaniam) holds Chairmanships of various Gujarat Government corporations. She was earlier the Chief Secretary of the state. Clearly, she owes a lot to Modi!

Clearly, the selection panel is designed to get Modi’s candidate selected. And what does the party’s central unit have to say about this? Nothing! The central unit prefers to comment on the Governor instead, whose powers to select the Lok Ayukta have been stripped. It was the Governor who had become the pain in Modi’s neck – insisting on the appointment of Justice Mehta as the Lok Ayukta, and even winning Modi’s challenge against her decision in the Supreme Court. A miffed Modi has snuffed out the Governor’s role itself! This is nothing surprising, for Modi brooks no dissidence. None at all!

So the selection committee is pro-ruling party. The BJP says that this is “modeled on the Lokpal Bill presented in the Lok Sabha”. That’s terrific, but I thought the BJP opposed the Lokpal Bill – and specifically this clause – and did everything under its powers to block its passage. It succeeded in the Rajya Sabha, and it is more than likely that the new select-committee vetted Lokpal Bill will have a significantly diluted role for the ruling party in appointing the Lokpal. How clever. Oppose the clause in the center; but use it to advantage in the state!

But then there is nothing new in the double standards of the BJP. When Anna’s agitation was going on, the party was fully supportive of his demands. In fact, in the “sense of the house” resolution, the BJP agreed to setting up the Lokpal and the LokAyuktas through one single central act, a key Anna demand. Once that was done, the BJP turned its back on this provision. It demanded that the Lok Ayuktas be separated from the Lokpal Act. Why? We now know why! The party’s “model” CM wanted otherwise! How can the model state be burdened with an independent Lok Ayukta of the type the party wants installed at the center????

Also, the BJP’s comfort with double standards has been historical. Atal Bihari Vajpayee as PM chose to do nothing against Narendra Modi after the post-Godhra riots, except “remind him” of his “Raj dharma”. And the BJP calls Vajpayee a statesman???? On the Lok Ayukta issue, the same thing is happening. The central party unit will gloss over the state’s act.

Narendra Modi runs Gujarat in a Hitleresque manner. No protests are allowed. No independent authority is permitted to take charge. The state has not had a Lok Ayukta for more than 8-9 years – covering most of Modi’s tenure. An independent Lok Ayukta would investigate the various corruption cases that currently lie buried. Why would Modi allow that? The new amendments will get rid of Justice Mehta once and for all.

The other important clause in the newly enacted legislation is this: As per the provision (Sec 12(8)), whoever discloses to the public or to the press any information or publishes such information in contravention of the provisions of this section should invite two years' imprisonment and also the fine of Rs 2 lakh. And I thought the BJP was not keen on a similar clause in the central Lokpal Bill! That they wanted to encourage people to bring up more and more cases of corruption without any fear of being jailed or penalized??!!

Here’s another googly as reported in the press. The Bill also proposes a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any 'public functionaries' from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta. This is fabulous! The government can decide who can be excluded from the purview of the Lok Ayukta. All flanks covered! Hail Modi!

The real truth is that the more Modi comes under the spotlight, the more he gets exposed. For example, the charge of mishandling swine flu is coming out now – Modi hasn’t responded to it yet. Why? Because its an embarrassing statistic? But that’s so typical of Modi. He will now ensure that the Lok Ayukta is made completely toothless – one that lays supine in front of him and does his bidding. This is the future PM of the country????!

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