Lokpal: Modi’s failure by design

Was BJP’s 2014 anti-corruption campaign a jumla

The Supreme Court has chided the Narendra Modi government yet again for dragging its feet on appointing a Lokpal. It has called on the government to file a fresh affidavit by January 17, laying out the steps it has taken in this regard since September last year. It is anyone’s guess whether the government will have any progress to report. It is evident that the government does not want to appoint a Lokpal. The RSS and BJP had supported, enabled and taken full advantage of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign in 2011, which culminated in parliament enacting the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. The BJP also made corruption the central issue in its campaign in the 2014 general election. But having come to power, and that too with a massive mandate, it has done little to fulfil its promise. Indeed, the selection committee to choose the Lokpal met for the first time only in March 2018, 45 months after Modi government took office. The meeting resulted in nothing substantial. Even this minimal move came only after the SC chided the government for its inaction.

Earlier, the Modi government had blamed its failure to appoint a Lokpal on its inability to constitute a selection committee. It said that since there was no official leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, it was unable to put together the panel. It promised to amend the law to allow the leader of the largest opposition party to be on the panel, but it did not keep the promise. In April 2017, the SC clarified that the Lokpal could be appointed in the absence of a ‘leader of the opposition’ and that this was valid under the existing law. What is the government’s excuse now? Hazare has threatened to launch another hunger strike to get the government to appoint a Lokpal.

Corruption in high places underlies the long-standing quest for a powerful and independent Lokpal. The idea for such a watchdog, which was first mooted in 1966, has been resisted by the political class for obvious reasons. It was only under the mass pressure built up by the anti-corruption movement of 2011-12 that the Lokpal law was enacted. That was done under former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s watch. His government held two meetings of the Lokpal selection committee. Progress in taking this law forward has been negligible under the Modi government. Its stated commitment to rid the country of corruption rings hollow, not least because of its deliberate failure to appoint a Lokpal.

 

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Lokpal: Modi’s failure by design

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