Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lok Pal Bill - A humiliating defeat

Rahul Gandhi’s game-changer comes a cropper

The Congress thought it would steal the thunder from Anna Hazare’s campaign and thus present itself as the real crusader against corruption — a laughable proposition in view of the fact that the party is the  progenitor of corrupt practices in this country — through a hocus-pocus Lokpal Bill. In order to be seen as doing one better than those demanding a strong and independent anti-corruption ombudsman, the Congress got its general secretary and the scion of the party’s first family, Mr Rahul Gandhi, to ‘demand’ that the institution of the Lokpal should be given the status of a constitutional body. That was supposed to be the ‘game-changer’, the master-stroke with which the Congress would stump its critics and political foes. In the event, after Tuesday’s debate and voting on the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha, the Congress has ended up looking not only utterly silly and incompetent but also has egg on its face. The Government may have succeeded in using its numerical strength to get the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill through the House without bothering about the fundamental flaws in the proposed law, but it failed to secure the required two-thirds majority to push through the accompanying Constitution amendment Bill.  

In other words, the  Opposition, led by the BJP, successfully outmanoeuvred the Government and poured cold water on Mr Gandhi’s dream, turning his much-publicised ‘game changer’ into a game-breaker. Understandably, the Congress is unhappy and the party president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, is incandescent with rage; it’s not often, if ever at all, that Mr Gandhi has been slighted in so rude a manner. Expectedly, instead of gracefully accepting defeat on the floor of the house, Ms Gandhi and those mindful of the need to keep the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in good humour have begun to vent their spleen on the BJP.

There is, however, no cause for holding the BJP (or the entire Opposition) responsible for Tuesday’s humiliating defeat suffered by the Government. As Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj has pointed out, it is not the BJP’s responsibility to fulfil Mr Gandhi’s ‘dream’ of giving constitutional status to the Lokpal or make his ‘game-changer’ come true. It was for the Congress and its allies to stand by Mr Gandhi but they failed to do so. The Congress would do well to look within for reasons as to why its grand scheme of peddling a weak Bill as a strong step towards fighting corruption has come a cropper. The party clearly doesn’t want an effective Lokpal; what it wants is a tame institution which it can use as an instrument to further its political interests. Hence the sudden, and entirely uncalled for, introduction of a minority quota. In the short term, the Congress hoped to use it for mobilising Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh where Assembly election is due in February next year; in the long-term, it planned to use the cover of constitutional status for Lokpal to subvert other constitutional bodies with a similar quota. That game plan now lies in tatters. The disingenuous move which was packaged as Mr Gandhi’s ‘game-changer’ has been scuttled by the Opposition, namely the BJP, with the Constitution amendment Bill being defeated in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress may have lost the game, but India has won a reprieve from the party’s relentless assault on the nation’s identity and the very foundation of our secular Republic. For this alone the Opposition deserves to be commended. If Tuesday’s defeat has fractured the smug certitudes of certain individuals, that should be cause to celebrate.

Courtesy : The Pioneer, Dec 29, 2011

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