The Lokpal Bill in Parliament – passes the Lok Sabha, fails in the Rajya Sabha

All through the progress of the Lokpal debate that happened this year, there was a strong feeling – can such a law ever come to pass ? Can a law which has been pushed for 43 years now actually come into force, even if it was not as strong as one would have wished ? As time moved on from April, when the issue came to national prominence, the discussion started getting more focused. But it was the agitation in August that seemed to do the impossible, create a tidal wave of public (and media) pressure that pressured the Government to seem to do something, and it gave a commitment to pass a Lokpal Bill with certain characteristics. But, is it really possible that any political party in India will be serious about the Lokpal ? Think about it – the Lokpal desires to set in place an independent investigating authority that will investigate corruption (and typically, corruption is only associated with the ruling Government machinery and the bureaucracy).
Now, the economics of politics in India is simple. They are almost all in it for the money and influence; and there is no money to be made from the Government unless you have a babu (or multiples babus) who show the path, partake in the corruption, or let it happen and do not raise any objection. So, when you talk about politicians being corrupt, that is not possible without the involvement of the official machinery, and we are asking the Government and other political parties to create an outside agency that seeks to throttle this money making ability. Politicians in India are smart, and they are not about to commit suicide.
So why did the political class agree to setup a Lokpal in August ? Well, they saw a huge wave of anger in terms of a public out to apparently protest wide-spread corruption, and saw that this anger could not be countered by any more denials – instead, the usual method of delay has to be used. Delay is the most potent political weapon that the political class has, to be used for any major controversy, such as the Lokpal issue, or the Telangana issue (which is no longer front page news, and hence is not worthy of needing an immediate resolution).

And this is what the political classes seem to have found; the delay has worked wonders. A number of methods were pushed to show that ‘something’ was happening. The legislation was with the Standing Committee (whose chairman, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, should be ashamed of putting his stamp on such a bill after many months, since it was his father who had coined the term Lokpal many many years ago in Parliament) for many months, and when it came out, there was enough in it to show people that something was happening; while enough to prevent the Bill from being a monster that would have cleansed the political classes. And then the Government made more changes to the Bill, removed the Citizen’s charter, did some more defanging of the Bill (by ensuring that the effective control of the CBI remains with the Government, keeping the premiere investigating agency to be butt of ridicule, with nicknames such as the Congress Bureau of Investigation; as well as ensuring that there is enough confusion about who of the CBI, the CVC, and the Lokpal actually investigates what).
Even this Bill was such that the Congress was unsure of getting passed through both houses of Parliament, and one suspects, the role of the Trinamool Congress was a god sent opportunity for the Congress to ensure that the Bill will not become law, and so the final drama in the Rajya Sabha. It was well known that the Congress did not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, but if this was a bill that they wanted to pass, they would have made compromises and did a proper floor management to ensure that the Bill would have passed, even if the Congress had to call a joint session of Parliament and then get it passed.
One really doubts whether the Congress will ever want this Bill to get passed, even when the Bill is flawed. As always, the image of the Prime Minister, never strong over the past 2 years, is getting more and more dragged in the mud. In order to retain his place, he is ensuring that his name will forever be seen as the PM who ran the most corrupt administration, who let it happen, and hence will also be tainted.

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