Posts Tagged ‘Lok Pal’

CHURUMURI POLL: Abdul Kalam for President?

20 April 2012

It is a reflection of the current state of Indian politics that even as boring an exercise as the presidential election has all the markings of a heart-stopping show, which, to use the sage words of Ravi Shastri in an IPL season, “can go all the way down to the wire”.

The elections are still two months away, but the battlelines are getting drawn between the UPA and NDA, with more than a few aspiring (and perspiring) partypoopers lining up alongside. Result: Hopes of a “consensus” in the “national interest” are quickly getting “elusive”.

The Congress-led UPA, whose electoral victories are few and far between, obviously wants its candidate (vice-president Hamid Ansari, according to the prevailing wisdom) to get in, especially with general elections due in 2014. Ansari is suave, erudite, secular, has friends on both sides of the political fence, and oozes plenty of presidential air.

The problem is his conduct as chairman of the Rajya Sabha in the Lok Pal debate—when he called of the session without giving time for a vote—which seems to have rubbed the BJP on the wrong side.

Worse, as a “left wing intellectual” Ansari is anathema to the current diva of Indian politics, Mamata Banerjee, who is part of the UPA. She, it appears, is talking with Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajawadi Party and exploring the possibility of propping up former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once again. Mulayam it was who had first suggested Kalam’s name in 2002.

Kalam’s name did the rounds at the end of his first term in 2007, but when the parties couldn’t reach a consensus, he dropped out. “Kalam Iyer” has given no indication that he is interested in a fresh tenure but by floating his name at this juncture, regional parties like Trinamool are giving every indication of a faceoff between a Tamil Muslim and a UP Muslim.

Questions: Will Kalam agree to enter the presidential race again? Should he? Does he stand a chance when the numbers are loaded against the Opposition? Could he end up becoming a pawn in the hands of small parties? Or, should the UPA consider him as the “consensus” candidate this time round given his role in defusing the Koodankulam anti-nuclear protests?

6 questions Rahul Gandhi still hasn’t answered

7 January 2012

If you listen closely to the breeze blowing through the capital’s vineyards, the year of the lord two-thousand twelve is the year when a not-so-young man will become the “fifth generation custodian of one of the world’s longest serving political dynasties of the world“.

But Rahul Gandhi‘s personal life has not been the bed of roses that pathological Congress-haters with Subramanian Swamy on their Twitter timeline think it is: he was 10, when his uncle crashed to death; 13 when his grandmother lay soaked in blood in the family garden; 20 when the call came from Sriperumbudur.

His political life, though, is not as touching.

Seven years since he set foot in the cesspool, few know where he stands on any issue. He speaks for FDI in retail after the bill has been torpedoed. He speaks for Nandan Nilekani‘s Aadhar project after the parliament standing committee has torn into it. He looks ashen-faced when his suggestion to make Lok Pal a constitutional authority is noisily defeated.

If the Congress wins anything, bouquets are laid at his door; if it loses, partymen magnanimously bat the bricks. If he speaks in the Lok Sabha, he is cheered; if he remains silent, his critics are jeered. For a digital generation politician, he seems to loves playing a stuck LP on his strange two-nation theory of India.

Yes, has heroically (and admirably) made the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections a test of his prowess, unlike his presumed rival from the BJP—Narendra Damodardas Modi, to give him his full name—who cannot even step out of his Vibrant State, but what after that?

On India Real Time, the Wall Street Journal‘s superb India website, Ajit Mohan asks the one question reporters on the Congress beat are loathe to asking:

“The question that has never been sincerely posed is what will he have to do to earn the right to lead the nation or even the party? Even the scions of established political dynasties have had to earn their stripes in recent history.

“While it was always a guaranteed outcome that Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew’s first-born son would become the prime minister some day, Lee Hsein Loong was battle-tested in critical ministerial portfolios and successfully led the country’s monetary authority during the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s before he got anywhere near the leadership chair.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the Democratic party’s favorite president, John F. Kennedy, and descendant in a long line of family members who served in senior leadership positions in the government, failed to get the nod from her party for a US Senate nomination despite her legacy and support from a sitting president. North Korea may well be an exception to the rule, where the only criterion for the new supreme leader seems to have been that he happened to be the son who was not a full-blown lunatic.

“For Rahul Gandhi to earn the right to be the leader that he may be destined to be, he must prove his mettle on many fronts.

“Can he articulate a philosophy of political and social change that is compelling enough to chart the policies of the Congress for the next 20 years? Can he create a political strategy that is rooted not in the vote bank politics of the past — slicing and dicing communities and castes — but in appealing to the aspirations and energy of constituencies that have traditionally not even bothered to vote? Does he have the intent and the ability to reform the party’s governance structures? Can he win elections for the party? Can he build and sustain coalitions? Does he have the management ability to lead and govern a party as diverse as the Congress, or a country as complex as India?”

Photograph: courtesy The Associated Press via WSJ

Also readJesus, Mozart, Alexander aur apun ka Rahul Gandhi

What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

How different is Rahul Gandhi from MNS and KRV?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: A foregone conclusion?

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP casteist on corruption?

6 January 2012

Nothing underlines hypocrisy better than when the shoe is on the other foot. When an anti-corruption campaigner who is waving the national flag for the Lok Pal bill (Kiran Bedi) is found to have fudged travel bills, or her compatriot (Shanti Bhushan) is charged of evading stamp duty of over a crore of rupees, it convinces even the most optimistic cynic in the Republic that hamaam mein sab nange hain.

And so it is with the BJP.

For months, actually for well over a year and a half, the so-called main opposition “party with a difference” at the Centre has feasted on the torrent of corruption scandals raining in on the Congress-led UPA government; its spokespersons sitting on the high moral pedestal offered by nightly television and holding forth self-righteously, like angels in the augean stables.

The  “former future prime minister of IndiaL.K. Advani, even went on a self-serving yatra, with the Hudco-scam tainted H.N. Ananth Kumar (whose links with Niira Radia is now legend) as his navigator. That the BJP was doing all this grandstanding even while B.S. Yediyurappa and other members of his outstanding cabinet were burning the candle of corruption at both ends was pure irony.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot once again, with a fullblown crisis having erupted in Uttar Pradesh over the BJP’s induction of scam-tainted former BSP minister, Babu Singh Khushwaha, into its ranks. This, even while the party boycotts Union home minister P. Chidambaram in Parliament on the 2G scam issueThe point here is not the BJP’s selective  blindness to corruption—that is every party’s weakness—rather, it is the BJP’s response to it.

Uma Bharati has raised a banner of revolt against Khushwaha’s inclusion threatening to stop campaigning for the party in UP; her close friend Yogi Adityanath has said he will quit the party; party luminaries like Maneka Gandhi and Kirti Azad have spoken out; and the party’s central leadership is said to be vertically split over Khushwaha’s inclusion reportedly engineered by party chief Nitin Gadkari, Ananth Kumar, et al.

The RSS is reported to have stepped into the picture and warned against accommodating the corrupt, and all indications are that Khushwaha will be dropped like a hot potato.

So, here is the question, notwithstanding the fact that Uma Bharati too is an OBC leader. How is it that vocal sections of the BJP and RSS find a voice against corruption only when Dalits (like Bangaru Laxman) or backward class leaders (like Khushwaha) are caught in a scam? Why was it absent when Yediyurappa (a Lingayat) was bringing such ignominy to the party, or when other upper caste members like Pramod Mahajan (a Brahmin) were not exactly smelling of roses?

Is the BJP casteist on a secular issue such as corruption?

Was Anna Hazare campaign a media creation?

5 January 2012

With the MMRDA grounds in Bombay not quite turning out to be the Ram Lila grounds of Delhi, and with the Lok Pal bill floundering in Parliament, it is time for some introspection in the media of the media’s role in the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement.

***

Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, at First Post:

“At the 2011 CNN IBN Indian of  the Year awards, Anna Hazare candidly admitted that it was the media which was responsible for his rise from a regional figure in  Maharashtra to a national icon. ‘If your cameras ‘had not followed me everywhere, who would know me?’ was the activist’s honest response.

“There is little doubt that over the last nine months, Hazare’s advisers used the media quite brilliantly. Prime-time press conferences, made-for-TV spectacles, social networking campaigns: Anna Hazare did benefit from saturation media coverage.

“Yes, some of  it was high-pitched,  and, yes, some journalists did become Anna cheerleaders. But to see Anna as purely a media phenomenon would be a misreading of  the mood on the street. Crowds were attracted to Anna not because the TV cameras were there, but because he appeared the antithesis of  a morally bankrupt political leadership beset with a series of  scams….

“In the end, both the state and Team Anna mistook the medium for the message. Team Anna saw the frenzied coverage as its main weapon, forgetting that democratic politics is not a repetitive television serial, but a tortuous process of  negotiation and conciliation. The state, on the other hand, failed to recognise that cacophony will be part of  a media environment in which there are more than 350 news channels and several hundred OB vans across India.

“The media will be a loudspeaker of  grievances, not just of Team Anna, but of  many other protest movements in the future. Strong leaders will not be swayed by the noise, a wise civil society will seek legitimacy beyond the camera lens.”

Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine, in the International Herald Tribune:

“The Indian news media generate public interest through two distinct kinds of stories — the reporter’s story and the editor’s story. In 2005, when Parliament passed the Right to Information Act, it was the result of a long and difficult process of influencing public opinion by reformers and persistent reporters.

“The anti-corruption movement, on the other hand, was an editor’s story from the very beginning, from the moment Anna Hazare arrived in New Delhi in April, sat on a wayside with his supporters and threatened to starve to death if the government did not create the Lokpal.

“Television news quickly converted Hazare into a saint who had arrived from his village to fight the corrupt authorities in New Delhi. On the first day of his fast, there were no more than 300 people around him, but the cameras framed the fast in such a way that it gave the impression that something big was going on.

“The television news media, which are largely headquartered in New Delhi, had very little understanding of Hazare, who is from Maharashtra. Until last April, his influence was confined to rural parts of Maharashtra. By the time the anchors asked the important question — “Who exactly is Anna Hazare?” — it was too late. They had already proclaimed him a modern saint, and he had amassed millions of supporters in a matter of days. As it turned out, Hazare is not a man the urban middle class would normally call a saint.”

Also read: Anna Hazare: 17 interviews in 11 hours

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

The ex-Zee News journalist behind Anna Hazare show

Ex-Star News, ToI journos behind ‘Arnab Spring’

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Anna Hazare campaign dead?

2 January 2012

The dawn of 2012 looks very much like the dawn of 2011. A year ago, it seemed as if corruption was here to stay, as if “We, the People” didn’t care about the scams and scandals, as if there was nobody to take the lead, as if the political and bureaucratic class was united in its efforts to stall any form of institutional mechanism to bring the corrupt to book, etc.

If someone has just woken up from a year-long coma, it would seem as if nothing has moved or changed.

Except that “We, the People” did care; except that somebody did stand up; except that the nation went through an anti-corruption movement thrice if not four times; except that the government and the opposition successfully stymied every effort to put in place a “strong and effective” Lok Pal; except that the house of the people was used to mock the wish of the people.

But there is also one key difference. Thanks to a cynical year-long smear campaign aided by pro-establishment sections of the media—and the foolhardy partisanship of India Against Corruption which turned the campaign into India Against Congress Corruption—the crusaders  now stand as discredited as the crooked and the corrupt they sought to bring in line. And the long and tiring attempt to draft the legislation now seems to have taken the wind out of the anti-corruption sails and public interest in it, as can be evidenced by the meek reception in Bombay.

With last week’s televised theatrics by the “people’s representatives” in the Lok Sabha and the “states’ representatives” in the Rajya Sabha, a big question mark hangs over the battle against corruption. Will Anna Hazare‘s campaign ever regain the same amount of attention? Will corruption as an issue ever gain the same kind of traction? Will Lok Pal ever see the light of day? Or, is corruption as an issue dead and buried unless something truly mammoth and dramatic happens?

Also readCHURUMURI POLL: Has UPA fooled the people on Lok Pal?

CHURUMURI POLL: Citizens above Parliament?

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

UPA’s Hazare cock-up in 179 simple words

CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be under Lok Pal?

Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Let a thousand Anna Hazares bloom across India

Corrupt, communal, cynical and also casteist?

27 December 2011

Caste is back—and in your face. To pave the way for fixers seeking to stymie the Lokpal match, the Congress-led UPA has envisaged reserving half the nine-member institution on the basis of caste. And, a day before the Election Commission could notify the elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other States, the Centre created a 4.5% subquota within the 27% OBC quota for minorities.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in the Indian Express:

“The Anna Hazare movement has rightly been castigated for the morally obscene use of the caste of children. Recently, it was reported that Rahul Gandhi referred to Sam Pitroda’s caste in an election rally. Is this really the party of Jawaharlal Nehru or even Rajiv Gandhi?

“We ought not to disguise the appalling realities of caste, where appropriate. But using them in this way? Someone remarked on reading this story, “Rahul ne to Sam Pitroda ki bhi jaat dikha di.” Even if the intention was benign there is a truth in this.

“Is it not appallingly diminishing when we create an institutional culture where the first thing we want to point to is someone’s caste? I thought the idea of India was to escape precisely this original sin. And now Lokpals, tomorrow judges, all will be identified through caste.

“Perhaps the Congress is in love with the “C” in its name. Corruption was not enough. It had to become corrupt, casteist, communal and cynical. India’s tragedy is that there is no national level challenger to this party that is diminishing us all.”

Read the full article: The C in Congress

Who is trying to finish whom is not so easy to see

1 December 2011

Meanwhile, away from the heat, dust and sparks over the 2G scam and FDI in retail and the Lok Pal and Kanimozhi‘s release and whatever will fill up the “hour” between 9 pm and 10.30 pm tonight, life goes on in the “Republic of Bellary” where, beknownst to the ordinary eye, former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is playing an even more sinister game of running with the Gowda hare and hunting with the Reddy hound.

While he was CM in a strange 20-20 partnership with the BJP, Kumaraswamy was “stung” by hidden cameras of the Reddy brothers that showed him allegedly receiving a “bribe” of Rs 150 crore, allegedly from the miners raping the district. He is now said to be backing the siblings’ nominee, B. Sriramulu, who stood as an independent in the by-elections held yesterday after quitting the BJP.

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Also read: Because the shit has hit the ceiling

External reading (Kannada): How a hero became a villain

CHURUMURI POLL: Citizens above Parliament?

10 October 2011

The Lok Pal debate has been a tragicomedy on a roller-coaster. One minute, civil society is up, the next moment the establishment is up, or some other section of civil society. One minute, civil society is screaming in agony, the next moment it is screaming in relief and delight. And so on.

If the original fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar by Anna Hazare was intended to convey that Parliament with all its infirmities was not the sole repository of all wisdom and that “We, the People” too could play a part in the law-making process, the second at Ram Lila ground showcased people power if the establishment forgot the rules of fairplay.

The Lok Pal smorgasbord remains as messy as ever, but both sides are losing no opportunity to shadow-box each other. The bureaucrat turned RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who is part of Team Anna, has now said that Anna Hazare is above Parliament and so indeed is every citizen of India.

“Every citizen is above Parliament…. The citizen has every right to tell the Parliament that it has not done the job. Citizens are more important than Parliament. Anna Hazare and every citizen is supreme. It is in the Constitution,” Kejriwal told Karan Thapar in the CNN-IBN program, Devil’s Advocate.

Kejriwal’s new line does two things. It turns what has so far been a battle between sections of civil society and the government into one against Parliament—government, opposition, the whole lot.

And it seeks in an abrasive sort of way to redefine and redraw the role of elected representatives who generally give the impression of considering their election as a licence to to do anything till the next election.

Broadly, Kejriwal’s stentorian line tallies with the questionable attempt by Team Anna to gherao ministers and MPs’ houses, as if all those who disagree with the Jan Lok Pal bill are enemies of India. Nevertheless, placing the citizen above the representative he has elected and their collective, is fraught with possibilities.

So, is Kejriwal right or is he playing with fire?

What if Steve Jobs were prime minister of India?

6 October 2011

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from San Francisco: India was a key detour in the earthly journey of Steve Jobs. He came to Benares in the early 1970s looking for what most hippies did back then: nirvana.

When he asked Kairolie Baba, a sadhu, on how to attain it, apparently all he got in return was a clean shave of his head on a hilltop.

From that experience, we can conjecture that Jobs probably learnt to always keep aiming higher, give people something they never knew they wanted, and to keep it all sufficiently mystical and secretive (and pricey).

Thus suitably enlightened, “Swami Steveananda” returned home to set up Apple Ashram, ushering in what he didn’t get in Benares—nirvana albeit of the digital kind—to millions of cultish disciples by marrying beauty with utility.

In the process, he transmogrified an almost-dead brand into becoming bigger than Google and vying with Exxon Mobil on the stock markets.

Maybe that was the easy part for someone who “lived at the intersection of technology and liberal arts“.

But what if Steve Jobs were in the position of Manmohan Singh?

After all, the Congress is in the shit-hole as Apple found itself in, when Jobs returned for his second stint. A once-good brand fallen in bad times with the younger opponents snapping at its heels, accompanied by diminishing public acceptance and street cred.

So, yes, what would Steve Jobs have done had he been in prime minister Manmohan Singh’s shoes?

1. Show who’s the boss: Steve Jobs was neither a hardware engineer nor a software programmer, nor certainly a manager, yet as its CEO and “technology leader” he was the face and voice of Apple, in good times and bad, and proudly so.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs would have stood up and be counted, instead of blaming the demands of coalition politics or hinting at a plot to destabilise the polity for his plight. Or running for cover from colleagues (like Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, Digvijay Singh or Mani Shankar Aiyar) constantly shooting him in the foot.

In doing so, Jobs would have cleared the negative perception among the people and within his party over who really runs the government: he, she or he.

2. Launch a killer product: Like a bad Indian restaurant which churns out everything from South Indian to North Indian food, with Chinese, Chaat, Continental and Mughlai thrown in, the Congress tries to do please all, in the process pleasing few or none.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs would have come up with one killer idea or concept, kept it neat, simple and minimalistic so that the voters would understand, and kept making it better till he perfected it in time for the elections.

And that killer concept can’t be foreign policy. It’s got to be something like iPod and iPhone and iPad: something which the people can see, touch, feel and connect with. A bit like NREGA from UPA-I.

He could even call it “i” something, “i” for Indira that is.

3. Make peace with the enemy: Here’s what they don’t teach you at Oxford and Cambridge (or at World Bank). If you are prime minister of India, there’s no point fighting with the people of India about how to deal with corruption when gigantic godzillas of scams are running amok.

Which is what Singh’s buffoons like Kapil Sibal, P. Chidambaram, Manish Tiwari, Renuka Chowdhury et al are doing vis-a-vis the Lok Pal bill nightly on television.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs who didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge would have clearly identified the enemy—which is corruption—and made peace with those who would like it vanquished—which is the people—and laid out a road map for Parliament to pass it, without sending the signal that the Congress somehow has a vested interest in protecting the crooked and the corrupt.

4. Talk to us: Whether he had good news to convey or bad, whether he was in great shape or not, Steve Jobs stood up on stage in his trademark black turtle neck pullover and blue jeans to deliver the message.

As Manmohan Singh, Jobs would have capitalised on his honesty and integrity to come clean, to clarify, to tell it like it is, instead of allowing those the people distrust and dislike (see shortlists above) to further tie his government in knots.

As Singh, Jobs would have shown plenty of passion, and made one stunning speech or given a great interview instead of hiding behind the anodyne speeches of his media advisors, delivered deadpan like a post-lunch lecture at Delhi school of economics.

Also read: 3 lessons from the life and times of Steve Jobs

:Amazon kindles a fire in a small Apple harem

It isn’t so easy to woo an iPhone4 user, sister

Adolf Hitler and the rise and fall of iPad

An Apple a day keeps Steve Jobs away from us

What if Microsoft, not Apple, had made iPod

11 similarities betwen Apple and Rajnikant

CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be under Lok Pal?

31 May 2011

The hurried efforts to draft a Lok Pal bill, propelled by Anna Hazare‘s fast unto death in the wake of a slew of corruption scandals, has run into seriously rough weather, with civil society members at odds with representatives of the government on a very fundamental issue: just who should (or shouldn’t) come under the Lok Pal’s purview?

Should members of the higher judiciary be left out? Can members of Parliament be excused? Officers below the level of joint secretary? Should various anti-corruption bodies like CBI and CVC all come under the Lok Pal? Will such a Lok Pal with overwhelming powers over the executive, judiciary and legislature be such a good thing for a democracy? Etc.

The key emblematic issue, however, concerns the prime minister of India: should he or she come under the purview of the Lok Pal?

Home minister P. Chidambaram says the civil society members are themselves not in agreement on some of these issues. His HRD counterpart Kapil Sibal says whatever is done has to be in consonance with the Constitution of India. And Chidambaram has now written to the State governments and the MPs on the contentious issues.

All of which is shorthand for just one thing: there is desperate backpedalling going on after the attempt to stymie the panel through insinuations failed. After all, if the government’s own draft (according to the RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal) included the prime minister in it, why is the PM now being sought to be kept out of the Lok Pal’s loop?

Question: Should the PM come under the Lok Pal’s ambit? Or will his august office be sullied by frivolous charges, as is the fear?

Also read: Let a thousand Anna Hazares bloom

Why I’m slightly disappointed with Anna Hazare

CHURUMURI POLL: Do we like ‘single’ icons?

‘Media only bothers about the elite, eductated, middle-class’

Let a thousand Anna Hazares bloom across India

8 April 2011

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The fast-unto-death by the social activist Anna Hazare in New Delhi and the nationwide support it has elicited for cleansing the system, has enormous relevance to Karnataka especially in the present context, where the air is thick corruption.

One thing is clear. Politicians, cutting across party lines, are opposed to any measure to rein in corruption in public life. They have successfully evolved ways and means to torpedo any such attempts, or to emasculate the system which is put into operation, to ensure a free run for themselves.

While New Delhi has a history of dragging its feet on the Lokpal bill in general and on the question of bringing the Prime Minister under its purview in particular, Bangalore has a track record of dragging its feet on the question of strengthening the hands of Lok Ayukta with suo motu powers to investigate charges of corruption.

***

The common thread that runs in the attitudes of the central and State governments towards corruption, is the marked reluctance on the part of the the political parties, be it of Congress or non-Congress hues, including the BJP, to hold the bull by horns.

The intention is very clear: they don’t want to create any fetters which come in the way of their untrammelled enjoyment of power.

At the Centre, the main question which has been endlessly debated is whether the PM should be brought under the purview of the Lokpal bill, in whatever form it may be brought in.

The solution was/is simple: Had those who held the high august office voluntarily declared that they would subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, the matter could have been resolved in a jiffy and a suitable law could have found a place in the statute books.

But none of the worthies, from Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh, and including Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Deve Gowda, and Chandrasekhar, could volunteer to suggest that persons holding high office should not only be honest but appear to be honest too.

For all of them, the authority and status of the PM’s office appeared more important than the need for probity in public life. It is the cumulative mess created by the Cassandras of corruption, which has resulted in the 2G spectrum scam, which has made the current Prime Minister squirm in his seat.

Manmohan Singh’s image as a clean and honest politician has taken a severe beating. He has paid a big price for his  vacillation.

If the prime minister of the country is unwilling to lead from the front in the fight against the corruption, how do you expect the lower minions in the political hierarchy like the chief ministers and the State governments down the line to act otherwise?

If  the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, could be investigated for the Watergate scandal, or the high and mighty be proceeded against for tax evasion in America, it does not stand to reason as to why the busy  bodies in India tht is Bharat should be placed above the law.

***

In Karnataka, there is a twist in the tale.

Since 1984, there has been a law and an institution to fight corruption. But it has been deliberately made ineffective. The Lok Ayukta has not been given suo motu powers to initiate action.  Such powers given when the Act was enacted by the Ramakrishna Hegde government, were subsequently withdrawn two years later for reasons not clear.

The Lok Ayukta, as an institution, was almost unknown (and unseen) for nearly one-and-a-half decades after its inception. The first time it caught the public imagination was when Justice N. Venkatachala, who was appointed during the S.M. Krishna regime in 2001,  became proactive in the discharge of his duties.

It was Justice Venkatachala who focussed attention on the lacunae in the law and took them up with the government. For all the sound and fury, his five-year term ended without his dream of the grant of suo motu powers being realised.

His successor, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, too has vigorously pursued the pending issue with the government, even going so far as to submit his resignation in the period. His five-year tenure is coming to an end in a couple of months and like his predecessor he has to retire with a feeling that the government ignored his plea.

None of the governments that have held office during the period of the present and previous Lok Ayukta have been able to restore the suo motu powers to the Lok Ayukta, which is a felt need.

And these include, the Congress government led by Krishna, the Congress-JDS coalitions headed by Dharam Singh, the  BJP-JDS coalition headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy and the present BJP government headed by B.S. Yediyurappa, which has been in office from 2008.

The message is quite clear: none of them is keen on doing it despite the public protestation of their commitment to fight corruption.

The Upa Lok Ayukta enjoys suo motu powers, which can be exercised over the lower echelons of the administration. The other higher-ups do not come under its purview. More often than not, the post is kept vacant.

When Venkatachala, started exercising the powers of the Upa Lok Ayukta in his crusade against corruption, the government woke up after a long gap to and felt the need to fill the vacancy. This was done more with the intention of reining in Justice Venkatachala than to strengthen the functioning.

But much to the chagrin of those who had planned the move, the new Upa Lok Ayukta Justice Patri Basangowda proved to be a good foil rather than hindrance to Justice Venkatachala. After Mr Patri Basangowda retired the post in 2009,   the post has remained vacant.

The absence of suo motu powers has not been the only problem faced by the Lok Ayuktas in Karnataka, who have taken their job seriously. The government of the day has been blutning the efficacy of the institution and efforts put in by it, to trap cases possession of assets disproportionate to the known source of income.

In some cases, the officers trapped remain without being suspended and some of them have been quite powerful enough to wangle promotions and get good posting too. The government deliberately delays the question of granting permission for the Lok Ayukta to prosecute officers who have been nabbed.

The list of the governments acts of sins of omission and commission is quite lengthy.

***

A major development, which has occurred during the BJP government. stressing the imperative necessity of strengthening the Lok Ayukta, has been the surge of the scams.

The most important one has been the one pertaining to the illegal mining of iron ore, involving powerful politicians, in and out of office. The report given by the Lok Ayukta, which probed the matter, has been gathering dust.  The report has been relied upon by the Supreme Court but has not opened the eyes of the State government.

The inference is quite clear. But for the Supreme Court’s persistence in a case before it at present, the controversy over the illegal mining in Karnataka would have been pushed under the rug.

The second development is the scam over the denotification of the land, which during recent years has been openly regarded as a money spinner for politicians in power.

Going by the open charges being hurled it looks as if this has taken place one way or the either during the regime of almost all the CMs especially in the last one-and-a-half decades. A powerful minister of the BJP government has also been caught in the act. And chief minister Yediyurappa and his bete noire Kumaraswamy have been openly trading charges against each other.

Had a person like Anna Hazare been here, perhaps Karnataka would have witnessed the kind of  uproar that one is witnessing in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: ‘BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people’

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Why has corruption become such a small issue?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

 


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