All This Shadow-Boxing

No matter which way one looks at it, the net result is still cause of concern. The shadow-boxing over Lokpal Bill is over. But what is not over is the question of its implications way beyond the Lokpal’s point of origin. Quite expectedly the Congress Party heaved an audible sigh of relief after the passage of the controversial Bill by the Upper House as it was the only consolation for a party that never follows the constitution when it comes to the oppressed. ‘Lokpal’ is more politically symbolic than anything else. While Anna Hazare who originally made sensation across the country by fasting unto death for a strong legislation to fight corruption looks satisfied with the amended version of Lokpal Bill adopted by Rajya Sabha—Upper House—on December 17, 2013 his one-time lieutenant Arvind Kejriwal who is now the focus of media attention for his unprecedented success in the recently held Delhi Assembly Polls, rubbished it as an exercise in escapism. India is more than ever full of corrupt politicians and nobody thinks ‘Lokpal’ is the beginning of the end of Congress-style functioning in a multi-party democracy.

Congress, panicked by quick erosion in its traditional electoral base is desperate to offer something to the electorate before they get further isolated and ‘Lokpal Bill’ is more like a blank cheque that cannot be cashed so easily. For all practical purposes it will not end political competition which is the source of massive corruption. Congress leaders are happy because they think credit will go to Rahul Gandhi—the last hope of continuing dynastic rule in Delhi. Barring the Samajwadi Party led by the redoubtable Mulayam Singh, all parties including Laloo Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, cutting across ideological and political lines, supported the Bill, knowing full well, they won’t be affected much because of the absence of its proper application in the field. The powers that be don’t follow law, it is for the ruled to obey law.

Those who opposed the Bill had reasons to get worried about their front-men with criminal precedents being scrutinised under the scanner of ‘Lokpal’. But Acts are enacted in such a fashion that there are always loopholes to bypass them. Anna Hazare now says the Bill has provisions to trap even a lion. But his critics maintain that it may fail to catch even a mouse. Laws are fine so long as they are discussed in legislatures and court rooms. Problem, however, is how to implement them. ‘Lokpal’ or no ‘Lokpal’ the people with dubious distinction of having questionable records will be asked to cleanse the system that is rotten to the core.

Not that there is no law to tackle black money and economic offenders who are invariably ‘Lions’ and ‘Tigers’, with proper connections in the corridors of power. Black money virtually runs a parallel economy. India ranks third in black money outflow, only after Russia and China, with four lac crore in 2011. It’s a rise by 24 percent over the previous year. All this happened when the ‘Lokpal’ movement was at its pack in the year 2011. These shocking findings are in the recently released report by the international watchdog Global Financial Integrity. Generation of blackmoney is a continual process and no government had ever tried to contain it seriously. They always played with the gallery to reap harvest in electoral battle. It’s unlikely the powers that be would behave differently when the ‘Lokpal Bill’ becomes effective through an Act.

Parties in power always rule in the name of people but they cannot think of retaining power without indulging in corruption and engaging criminals to criminalise politics. They are competing with each other to induct mafia dons in their parties with the sole objective of utilising their muscle power in winning elections. The Samajwadi Party that rules Uttar Pradesh by fine-tuning caste prejudices and practising reverse communalism, is now in the news for allowing a notorious criminal to contest parliamentary poll on their ticket from Sultanpur when elders were busy to adopt the amended version of ‘Lokpal’. Only the other day, faced with adverse criticism, another casteist outfit—Janata Dal (United), this time in Bihar—expelled one Thakur who faces more than 20 cases of kidnapping and extortion. The dreaded gangsters, not people, are the mainstay of these parties professing socialism, democracy and all that. What ‘Lokpal’ can do when these people become law-makers after having secured comfortable majorities in election after election through nefarious means.

When they were discussing ‘Lokpal’ some people were out to seek exemption from the apex court’s July 10 verdict disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs from contesting elections. One NGO—Lok Prahari—possibly with the tacit approval of their political bosses to whom they owe allegiance, filed two separate petitions before the Supreme Court seeking modification in the July 10 judgement to enable convicted MPs and MLAs to rule the roost. They also urged the court to issue direction to the appropriate authority to declare vacant the parliamentary seats of RJD Chief Laloo Yadav and Congress leader Rasheed Masood who were convicted for no small offences.

‘Lokpal Bill’ apart, Congress looks serious about the controversial Communal Violence Bill which was however, opposed by the main opposition—Bharatiya Janata Party—for obvious reasons. Congress was in a hurry to save its skin as the ‘stormy’ winter session was the last opportunity to tell the electorate that it tried to do something noble.

Law cannot prevent corruption because law-makers are themselves not interested in curbing corruption. Nor can law stop communal violence. They never explain why India has been witnessing recurring communal riots since the days of partition despite ‘preponderance’ of secular forces. 17-12-2013

Vol. 46, No. 25, Dec 29 2013 -Jan 4, 2014

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