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India without Anna & me

By Biplob Ghosal | Last Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011 - 14:13
Biplob Ghosal
Loud and Clear

Shrewd politicians won the Lokpal game – I am compelled to say this as my already tattered faith in politicians was totally torn on Thursday night. Though from the beginning, it was a known fact that parliamentarians didn’t want a watch dog on their head, yet there was a ray of hope that at least the institution of Lokpal would come into existence, if not a strong ombudsman as proposed by Team Anna-led civil society.

True, the government managed to pass the Lokpal Bill in the lower house of Parliament, but if you sum up all the events leading to the drama in Rajya Sabha, it seems like a scripted show.

Low turnout in Team Anna’s rallies in Mumbai and Delhi certainly gave a shot in the arm to our elected representatives, who wasted no time to bury the Bill as soon as Anna broke his fast prematurely. The biggest fear of our politicians - ‘Anna’ and his support base the ‘common man’ - were not there to put pressure on them.

Though the government and Opposition members are slitting each other's throats on the anti-corruption legislation, I would say that none of the political parties was keen on passing the ‘Lokpal Bill’. After all, who would like to dig a grave for himself?

RJD leader Lalu Prasad’s statement: “Don't put the noose around your neck,” would be sufficient to express what our ‘netas’ are thinking. Lalu also was honest enough to say, “We are sitting here to sign the death warrant of all MPs, MLAs, MLCs and government employees."

The whole episode seemed orchestrated by the political parties to bury or at least defer the ombudsman bill. Otherwise, why did parties like Trinamool Congress first give their nod to the bill in Lok Sabha and then oppose the same in Rajya Sabha?

Activist Aruna Roy also questioned political parties for raising objections to the provision of setting up of Lokayuktas in the Lokpal Bill.

"The Sense of House resolution adopted by Parliament clearly says that Lokayuktas should be set up in states through Lokpal Bill. Nobody objected to this then. When it came to Standing Committee, nobody objected,” she said.

It is also tough to see the grand old party (Congress), which has ruled the country for well over 50 years, failing miserably in its floor management. How could the Congress not anticipate what was coming?

At the same time, Congress and BJP, being the largest political parties of the country, should have come together and passed the Bill. However, none of them agreed to sit and talk. It was evident that it was all about scoring brownie points as everyone wanted to take credit for Lokpal. Both of them proposed amendments to the civil society proposed Lokpal Bill, and both opposed each other’s amendments, making sure the Bill got killed.

Both the parties share the responsibility to protect the democratic structure of the country and could have easily talked out issues like the inclusion of CBI’s anti-corruption wing under Lokpal, appointment mechanism, Lokayukta and then come to a consensus and passed the Bill.

Many would criticise me if I blame Team Anna to some extent for the showdown, as the whole nation was looking forward to them, especially Anna Hazare. Undoubtedly it was the Anna factor, which led these politicians to cancel their vacation and debate the Bill in Parliament till midnight; it was certainly a rare incident.

But I wouldn’t hesitate in criticising Team Anna to some extent, as they let the game slip through their fingers. I am still wondering what made them campaign against Congress in Haryana, and then continuously hit out at the ruling party while leaving others untouched. This certainly led the common man to wonder whether their campaign was ‘political’ or not.

Singling out the Congress is the most crucial tactical mistake which Anna’s team has made. Another episode which didn’t go well with the people was Anna’s protest at MMRDA Ground in Mumbai at a time when Parliament was debating the Lokpal Bill. He should have waited till the verdict of Parliament and then launch his movement. I certainly feel that the whole story would have been different at this point of time had Team Anna planned it right.

But what about us? The common man? Many of us readily thronged Ramlila Maidan earlier this year when the LokPal Bill was a “hot topic”. Months after, we are now “bored” of the topic. Do we lack the determination to fight for our rights? Do we need an Anna all the time to coax us to stand up against corruption?

It’s my appeal to Anna Hazare to come forward with a new strategy to fight for the Lokpal Bill. I would like him to analyse the past rationally and only then decide the future course of action.

Not only Anna and his team, but the common man should learn from Rajya Sabha’s episode that these politicians can’t be left off the hook, otherwise they will keep on making a mockery of democracy and suppressing the voice of the common man.

It seems the elected representatives have lost their way in the capital’s fog and it’s up to the streets now to show them the way.

First Published: Friday, December 30, 2011 - 14:13

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