Politicising Lokpal?

What started out as a fast to protest against presenting of a weak Lokpal bill in front of the Parliament is rapidly becoming a BJP versus Congress battle. Anna Hazare’s core demand is that the bill, as prepared by the government’s drafting committee not be presented to the Parliament, because the bill is incapable of tackling corruption. Never has he demanded that the version of the bill that the civil society has drafted be passed by the Parliament. He has always maintained that he has full faith in the Parliament, and he just wants a strong bill to be presented for voting, and from there on he shall be more than happy to see the Parliament discuss and vote on the bill, and abide by their decision. The major reason for this stance is that the Parliament has no authority to change the bill, they can only send it back for rework if they find it to be lacking. What this means is that if our MPs feel that what Anna and his supporters are saying is true and the government’s version is not strong enough to tackle corruption, as would be desirable, they cannot change the bill to incorporate the changes, but can only reject the bill and send it back. After that it is again in the hands of the drafting committee whether or not to incorporate any changes, and they will then again send the bill back to the Parliament, where both houses will have to pass it, before it becomes law. Keeping in mind that the Lokpal bill has been floating around for more than 4 decades now, with successive governments having failed to pass it, what Anna says makes much sense – make sure you send a strong bill, which if passed does what it is supposed to, effectively. But in the press conference held by the government on the 16th of August, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal chose to quote Anna, on him trusting the Parliament. They repeated what they’ve been saying – that if Anna trusts the Parliament, he should let them decide if the bill they present is up to the mark or not. What this suggests is that the Congress is not really all that keen on passing the bill at all. Maybe they just want the bill to run around in circles, circles of being rejected and sent for review.

Now it does make sense that the Congress will do all it can to prevent a strong Lokpal bill from being passed, with the levels of corruption UPA-II has reached. But, what I do not understand is why BJP has jumped right into the centre of this battle. The most logical conclusion is of course that since they are the opposition, it is pretty much their job to ‘oppose’ whatever Congress says or does, sometimes, just for the heck of it. Any person in his/her right mind would without a second thought tell you that the BJP, or any other political party is as scared of the Janlokpal bill (in the Anna Hazare form) as Congress. So I am guessing that if I say that the odds of the Anna Hazare form of the bill being passed are slim at best, I would not be too off-mark. Thus, the only agenda that the BJP might have in opposing Congress and supporting Anna, could be to one-up Congress.

This brings me to my core argument, that the BJP is in fact politicising Anna’s campaign. While In the short run, this might be somewhat beneficial to Anna. But, this can only lead to Congress long standing claim of Anna being an RSS face gaining weight. And all of us know what happens to most arguments when they turn Congress versus BJP. The most important pillar of Anna’s campaign – public support will be at risk, since most people try and stay out of political battles, due to fear of getting stuck in between the line of fire.

Thus, in my opinion, BJP coming out in full support of Anna Hazare only hampers the anti-corruption movement, since it politicises the entire issue and dismisses the widespread public support.

Rithvik Pamidi