Millennium Post

UPA forging new equation with Anna

Evidently, corruption was the number one issue which wiped out the Congress in the election to four state assemblies – Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. It will also be the main issue in the coming Lok Sabha election. The Lokpal will give a weapon in the hands of the Congress leaders to tell the people how sincere they are in rooting out the menace of corruption.

Buoyed by their impressive victory in the assembly elections, the BJP has also been taking credit for passage of the Lokpal bill. The BJP realised that its anti-corruption campaign against the Congress would take a beating if it was seen as derailing the  anti-graft law. The party leaders will certainly cash it in the general elections. It was unusual, perhaps, for the first time, to see both the Congress and the BJP uniting in Parliament on an issue. Indeed, it was because of the mutual political interest.

The main credit, however, goes to Anna Hazare. It was indeed creditable that after a 46-year-long  wait, and eight failed attempts, the landmark legislation saw the light of the day which envisaged creation of a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman. But will the bill arrest rising tide of Arvind Kejriwal? It may because the stock of Kejriwal is down, having been sidelined by Anna and his (Kejriwal’s) chances in the coming Lok Sabha elections look bleak. He may not be able to make impact nation-wide as he has claimed. That means that the Aam Aadmi Party will remain confined to Delhi even if Kejriwal forms the government with or without support of either the Congress or the BJP. However, the passage of the bill has deprived Kejriwal  from taking continuously high moral ground in the run up to 2014 Lok Sabha election.

The irony could not have been more biting. In April 2010, Kejriwal pitched for a strong anti-corruption legislation with Gandhian Anna as the face of the Lokpal campaign. Three years on, when the Lokpal legislation was finally passed by Parliament, Kejriwal’s name was conspicuously missing.

Till their painfully separation in September 2012, Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan were widely recognised as the master minds behind the campaign with Hazare. It was their relentless combination of Anshan-dharna supported by data on corruption  cases and a powerful social campaign that forced the government  to do what was unheard of. The UPA government first formed a joint drafting panel  after the August 2011 fast.

The story later was different. Several Congress and BJP leaders vied with each other to acknowledge how Anna, through his fasts, had brought focus on the Lokpal Bill. But Anna had only bitter words for his erstwhile colleague. In an oblique reference to Kejriwal, the Gandhian said, ‘The country or society does not benefit from people who stand before cameras. If I had chosen to stand in front of cameras, I would have not reached where I have’.

Soon after Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal bill, Anna broke his nine-day-old fast with a sense of victory, but echoed Rahul Gandhi’s words that the step is a half-way mark and a larger framework is necessary to weed out corruption. ‘Lokpal is going to put a brake to corruption. It will be able to help combat 50 per cent corruption. However, this law will not stop graft completely’. Observers see it as a new equation building between Anna and the Congress.

Ten points of  Lokpal Bill which make it stronger envisaged that the Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over central investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by ombudsman. A high-level committee chaired by the prime minister will recommend selection of CBI Director. The collegium will comprise PM, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. Importantly, PM has been brought under purview  of the Lokpal, so also central ministers and senior officials.

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