Confused But Strong

July 1930, Louis Philippe was going to be the King while Paris was hit by a three-day riot. Count Charles Maurice Talleyrand-Périgord, or simply known as Talleyrand, sat in his Paris home. The pealing bells signalled the end of riots. Now, elderly Talleyrand whispered to his assistant, “Ah, the bells, we are winning.” The assistant enquired enthusiastically, “Who’s we, mon prince?” The reply was “Shhh, not a word! I’ll tell you who we are tomorrow.”

Count Talleyrand is considered one of the shrewdest diplomats of European history. He helped Aristocrats and Revolutionaries as and when it suited him. His subtlety helped him successfully survive Louis XVI, French Revolution, Napoleon, Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis-Philippe. The idea was simple; the risk of alliances can be minimized by not divulging too early and delaying taking sides till the end.

Congress-led UPA government has used these tactics to the fullest. They didn’t join the First Public Debate at Jantar Mantar. They didn’t commit on CBI or PM under Lokpal. They hid their cards till the very end. Some are still hidden but most of them are out, declaring a strong Lokpal. Of course, Team Anna and opposition parties will reject it as their demands were not met. But the goal of the India Against Corruption Movement was to get a strong ombudsman not to enable a draft by Arvind Kejriwal.

The Standing Committee Draft was bound to be a farce because government wanted to take all the credit. They can’t let people think that all political parties jointly brought a strong-bill. That’s not vote bank politics. The Lokpal should come out looking as a victory for government and government alone. Team Anna and the Opposition have had a rosy time for more than a year now. If the government successfully bring out a strong bill, both of these associations, especially Team Anna, will go into oblivion.

The Cabinet Draft definitely presents good intent. If we take it point-by-point, it is setting-up a strong Lokpal. The four sticky points throughout the negotiations have been the inclusion of Prime Minister, CBI and Lower-Bureaucracy and setting-up a Citizen’s Charter. The opposition parties were mostly supporting of all of these, for one reason or another.

When Dr. Singh himself had no reservations against his inclusion, it was but obvious that the Prime Minister will have to come under the purview of the Lokpal. He is not excluded from Indian Penal Code or Prevention of Corruption Act, so surely he can’t be out of this ombudsman. Also, his conditional inclusion is justified as Defence and National Security outranks the corruption issue.

The biggest slogans came for the inclusion of CBI. CBI has become a government’s play-toy and Lokpal needs an investigation-wing. Combine the two issues and the natural suggestion would be to bring CBI under Lokpal. But impulse and naturally-occurring ideas can’t always be correct. Laws of a country can’t be based on “Instincts”. The solution designed is better and makes-sense.

The cases handled by CBI not only involve government officials and politicians, but normal citizens as well. Lokpal on the other hand is an anti-corruption body, monitoring government and its officials. So brining the whole CBI under its purview doesn’t make sense. Why does a Lokpal need to monitor a murder case being investigated by the CBI?

To answer the misuse of CBI’s political misuse, government has introduced changes in the selection procedure. This will surely help make CBI less-political. For the Lokpal’s investigative wing, the solution, as suggested, is to divide the mechanism.

If the charges against an official are criminal, CBI will handle it and if the charges are minor such as negligence, etc., CVC will deal with it. Throughout the investigation, all the officers who will be investigating will be under Lokpal’s jurisdiction. It makes perfect sense. Moreover, this doesn’t saddle an already over-burdened CBI with minor cases like
misappropriate conduct.

But this is also where it starts getting muddled. For Class A and B officers, CBI will still investigate all types of cases, while Class C and D will be come under CVC. And if the charges for C & D employees also become criminal, then the case moves back to CBI. And there are no clear-cut instructions about this. How will the mechanism work or will there be a
combined-task force?

Similarly, if a corruption case involves both a Class A and Class C employee, higher class employee will still be investigated by CBI and lower class one with CVC. Even when written, it all seems complicated. So when it comes to actually implementing this model, I don’t see it working efficiently.

Still, these questions might get asked in Parliament and clear distinctions could be made, before the Bill becomes a Law. Moreover, this not being a constitutional body, many amendments came be made if and when they are required. But we will have to give the envisioned body a chance before discrediting it.

FDI Bill lost, Pension Bill withdrawn and Sonia Gandhi’s pet Food Security Bill rejected, Congress is fed up of getting bogged down. They are sure to retaliate. They have given enough concessions and have addressed all the issues in their draft bill. UPA-allies can expect a whip from Congress high-command and it will work because she is the still the most powerful person in India.

All the allies need Central Powers. Mamta needs packages from Delhi to rebuild Bengal. DMK is totally out of power to refute Congress’s demand. With UP election in view, Mulayam and Ajit Singh won’t take any risks. This Winter session, Lokpal is surely coming to an office near you!!

This is where Team Anna is making a big mistake. Instead of claiming it their victory, plus gaining some political mileage, they are looking for another strike. People wanted a Lokpal, a mechanism to address their grievances. Government is going to provide that; its strength can be questioned but not the idea. With recession fears looming, Sensex and Rupee tumbling down, Indian middle-class has got far too much on their hands. They would want government to work on Economic-reforms rather than Corruption-reforms.

Another Civil Disobedience movement seems unlikely. Anna Hazare needs to call this his victory, announce mass celebrations on New Year’s Eve and lay down his plan for the year 2012. The Civil Society Revolution is a game of keeping people interested. Once the Lokpal comes people won’t go in the nitty-gritty of it. They would need another set of reforms to come from Team Anna. This fight is over. The wait is to see if arrogance will lead Team Anna to stupor or they have enough Sociologists to gauge the need for change.

Abhay Nidhi