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Millennium Post

Momentous feat, now bury hatchet

Finally, after almost four and a half decades of trying to get bring in transparency in our legislature and executive divisions, India has managed to pass the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill in both the houses of Parliament. This after eight unsuccessful attempts since 1966 – when the Moraji Desai-led First Administrative Reforms Commission broached the idea of setting up a civic ombudsman at centre and the states to look into corruption allegations against public functionaries, especially bureaucrats and members of legislative assemblies and Parliament – is indeed a time for celebration, particularly at a time when the political and bureaucratic apparatus is crumbling under the unbearable weight of rampant corruption in every sphere. The Lokpal Bill, which was passed with amendments, was given the final push by the Gandhian Anna Hazare, whose nine-day fast at Ralegaon Siddhi was the final straw that the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi clutched on to to refloat the Bill with an urgency and bring it in the winter session of Parliament. That it was welcomed by leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj, even though MPs from regional dispensations like Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena staged a walkout in protest, obviously meant that the Congress-led UPA is falling back on measures that it hopes would attach its name to landmark rulings, if not guarantee a victory in the next Lok Sabha elections scheduled in May 2014. However, as the UPA puts it, the Lokpal Bill could only work in unison with other anti-graft legislations, which it hopes to bring in this session, as a part of a ‘comprehensive anti-corruption framework’, a feat that might as well be difficult to pull off. Although, it was the Congress-led UPA that brought in the watershed Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005, it took eight long years to deliver the next in line, which was the Lokpal Bill. Even now, unless the six pending draft legislations are given the green signal, such as Prevention of Corruption amendment, right to citizens for time-bound delivery of goods and services, public procurement, foreign bribery, judicial accountability and the whistleblowers bills, the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act will prove to be rather inadequate in curbing corruption and fraudulence in executions of public functions.

However, what comes across as a bitterly ironical development is the fact that Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party – which were fundamental in re-injecting life into the Jan Lokpal movement that had been gathering dust for years – have been cut off from the Bill’s final moments of glory. Kejriwal and his band of activists turned the anti-corruption movement into a national issue, and with Anna Hazare as the face of the uprising, have now been sidelined, with the Congress, against which the anti-graft movement was primarily directed, taking credit for passing the Bill. It is pathetic that political contingencies have pushed Kejriwal and Hazare apart from each other, with the latter more embroiled in furthering his political presence and influence and, and the former resolutely expressing his opposition to the much diluted bill until it was passed, contending that it was severely inadequate to deal with the entrenched corruption. It is unfortunate that the political fraternity prefers to indulge in games of moral one-upmanship and attempts to outplay one another even at a time when the nation has clearly expressed its absolute disgust with such myopic strategies to ensure political relevance and longevity.
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