New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has refused to attend a crucial meeting on the selection and appointment of a Lokpal as a ‘special invitee’.
In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Kharge, who is also the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, said that he won't attend the meeting on the appointment of a Lokpal since it was a move to exclude the Opposition from the selection process of the anti-corruption watchdog.
“The special invitee invitation is a concerted effort to exclude the independent voice of the opposition altogether from the selection process of the most important anti-corruption watchdog,” Kharge said in his letter.
The senior Congress leader also attacked the Narendra Modi-led NDA government and sought to know why the appointment has been delayed for four years.
“Congress-led UPA passed the Lokpal Act, 2013 and had brought it into force w.e.f January 16, 2014. Notwithstanding your repeated rhetoric to fight corruption, BJP government has chosen to not appoint a Lokpal for nearly four years,” he said in the letter.
Apart from the Prime Minister, the high-powered meeting on the appointment of a Lokpal will be attended by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Kharge continued by alleging that the invitation negated the letter and spirit of the lokpal and lokayuktas act, 2013.
“It is a matter of surprise that your government is choosing to adopt this route as a mere paper formality rather than seek any meaningful and constructive participation,” he wrote.
''The intent and objective of the act reflected that the Leader of the Opposition couldn’t be substituted as a special invitee, the veteran Congress leader said.
Kharge also blamed the Modi government for changing various statutes such as the Delhi special police establishment (amendment) bill, 2014 to substitute the “Leader of the Opposition” with the “leader of the single largest party” in the selection committee.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had recently attacked the Modi government over continued delay in appointment of Lokpal, even four years after the enactment of the law for setting up the institution, asking how long will it "blow the tune of falsehood".
"Four years have gone by, but the Lokpal has not come. The public is asking only one question, till when will you blow the tune of falsehood?'' Rahul had asked.
"Are the 'defenders of democracy' and 'harbingers of accountability' listening?" he asked in a tweet using '#FindingLokpal' as a hashtag.
Under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, ombudsmen are to be appointed at the Centre and in states for inquiring into allegations of corruption against public functionaries.
The government had earlier this month told the Supreme Court that the leader of the single largest party in the Opposition will be invited to attend the meeting on March 1.
In April 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the government to immediately implement the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and appoint a Lokpal.
(With Agency inputs)