Millennium Post

Who owns the Lokpal Bill?

Who gets the credit for the Lokpal Bill, which the Parliament has passed this week? Is it the Parliament, is it the UPA government, is it the main opposition the BJP, is it the Gandhian Anna Hazare who had led the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement or is it the newly born Aam Aadmi Party, a by product of the IAC, which stunned the political parties by its unprecedented victory in the recent Delhi Assembly elections? It is said success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. The same thing is applicable to the Lokpal bill with all the above-mentioned entities taking credit for the measure while the real credit goes to the public pressure.

The lawmakers have always been shying away from this legislation some publicly like the Samajwadi Party and Shiv Sena and others in private. Soon after passing the bill, many MPs from various parties said privately that they had just signed their death warrant by voting for the bill. This shows the pressure under which the political bosses forced their MPs to agree for the Lokpal Bill.

The Bill, which provides for setting up a Lokpal, independent of the government, to investigate corruption charges against public functionaries including the Prime Minister has been hailed as a huge step forward to check corruption. It is to be seen how effective the Lokpal will be or how much it can add to system as it has a huge responsibility. Some even fear that the Parliament might have created a new Frankenstein running a parallel government. The Lokpal bill was first introduced in 1968, which was passed the next year but before it reached the Rajya Sabha the house was dissolved and the bill lapsed. Subsequently, Lokpal Bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008. None of them were cleared by Parliament. Strangely every political party talks of rooting out corruption and Lokpal in their respective manifestoes but the legislation never became a reality until now.

What made the Parliament pass the bill now? As a senior Congress leader admitted it is the compulsion, which made the politicians reluctantly agree.  They have realised that they have lost credibility and need to restore it urgently with the 2014 elections looming large.  The last straw was when the two national parties – the BJP and the Congress- were stumped by the Aam Aadmi Party led by Kejriwal in the recent Delhi Assembly elections. The victory of the AAP made them realise that the people had reached the end of their patience and were looking for change. The shell-shocked BJP too wanted to take credit for the Lokpal. What made the UPA bring it to Parliament? The Congress party is demoralized after losing four states recently and has realised the public anger against it. The Congress hopes that this Lokpal bill along with the welfare measures like MNREGA, the Food security bill and land acquisition bill might come to its rescue in the 2014 polls.

Interestingly there is a sudden friendship between Anna and the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.  Exchanging notes in the past few days the two have been patting each other. In fact, giving a major fillip to the Lokpal Bill, Rahul virtually stole the thrust of Kejriwal’s Lokpal plank isolating him from Anna.

 Lokpal bill would never have been passed but for the Anna agitation of which Kejriwal was part of the team in 2011. The two have now fallen out after Kejriwal launched the AAP while Anna wanted to keep IAC a social movement. The AAP victory had made Anna realise that his disciple had overtaken him and this has resulted in a collision course between the two.

With an eye on Lok Sabha elections, the AAP is finding it hard to abandon Anna as well as the Jan Lokpal Bill issue. Anna’s current stance is a far cry from his non-negotiable position in 2011. The IAC appears to have come a full circle in two years with Anna accepting the government’s version presented to Parliament while Kejriwal has rejected the bill calling it a Jokepal bill. Anna has now virtually dumped Kejriwal, saying, ‘We have separated now and are walking different paths. If he (Arvind) and his party are unhappy with the draft, they can start a new agitation. I am not with them and there is no point in discussion.’ Kejriwal Is worried that Anna refuses to give AAP space on the Jan Lokpal platform.

The popular support for his 13-day fast in the capital had forced Parliament then to assure Anna that all concerns raised by him would be addressed in the Lokpal bill. Anna now sees reason and had said ‘I don’t want to die fasting to demand that each and every suggestion made by me should be included. I want to live because I want to start future agitations for more pro-people laws. I am satisfied with the current draft and I want to break my fast if that Bill is passed.’ Many civil society members who have been a part of the long fight for a strong Lokpal bill also now believe that although the bill has a few loopholes, it is still as a whole, a good move by the government.

All these go to prove that the aam aadmi who is being wooed by the Congress party as well as AAP has won this round without gong to the streets. While Lokpal may be a step to cleanse the
system, there are many more which needs to be taken. It is time the political class realise this and reform itself.

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