The future has arrived early

The future has arrived a little ahead of schedule. On the 12th day of Anna Hazare’s fast, the Lok Sabha debated the Lokpal legislation and unanimously agreed to the three points that Mr Hazare insisted on — the law should ensure that every state has a Lokayukta, all government departments should have a

citizen’s charter to address the people’s problems, any violation should be punished, and all Central and state government employees must come under the Lokpal’s jurisdiction. But the issue of the Lokpal Bill is far from resolved.
There is still a great deal of distrust between Team Anna and the United Progressive Alliance leaders and in this atmosphere constructive solutions don’t seem possible. But the fact that members of Parliament sat together to discuss details of the legislation is an achievement of the power of the people.
The reality, however, is that the Lokpal legislation is a political issue. The battle between the Congress and the BJP will only intensify as details are thrashed out. There was disagreement to begin with, over how the discussion should take place. The Congress wanted it under Rule 193, which entails no voting, whilst the BJP wanted it done under Rule 184, which requires a vote. Eventually, the discussion didn’t take place under either.
It is difficult to predict what will happen as politics takes charge of the Lokpal legislation. The stances of the Left and regional parties are not known but we do know that every party has strong views.
A sound and effective solution to tackle corruption has to be found as Mr Hazare’s anti-corruption movement is not going to go away anytime soon. Being apolitical, it will sustain itself with a great deal of moral authority.

Enacting a law to establish a constitutional body like the Lokpal requires detailed discussion, but, sadly, this is difficult under the shadow of Mr Hazare’s fast and his deteriorating health. A few years ago the RTI Bill had gone through this process before it became a landmark legislation. Sadly, the Jan Lokpal Bill seems headed in a different direction.
No political party is agreeable to the dilution of the provisions of the Constitution or to interference in the power of Parliament to enact laws. But in a surcharged atmosphere it becomes difficult to articulate what’s right and what’s wrong.
The country has supported Mr Hazare, with a few reservations, and people have condemned in no uncertain terms the government’s decision to detain him and deprive him of his right to dissent. When passions subside, questions will be asked. Shouldn’t Team Anna have given us all a chance to study their proposals? Shouldn’t they have given time to political parties and leaders of civil society to debate issues, as is the procedure in Parliament? We all have views but are being silenced.
The UPA government is feeling the pressure. However, the public anger we see today is directed against all three wings of governance as well as the political system in general. It is not easy to combat the scourge of corruption. Election funding is in large part responsible for this state of affairs. Several mafia-like interests have infiltrated the political system. The crores of rupees generated from the granting of telecom and liquor licences, land acquisition deals, contracts for road construction and a host of other activities, like coal, bauxite and iron ore mining, have compromised political authority.
Look at Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The CBI has filed charges against Jagan Mohan Reddy for assets acquired during the regime of his late father, Y.S.R. Reddy. It’s no secret that YSR had become bigger than the party; that internal dissent was muzzled, media silenced and licences for businesses, in many cases, granted only if the investments were made in his family business. Everyone suspected this but little was done since YSR delivered 32 out of 42 Parliament seats in the state to the Congress. Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa continued in power till the Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, handed in his report indicting Mr Yeddyurappa. Both the Congress and the BJP have to curb the discretionary powers of their men in elective offices if they are serious about eliminating graft.
Over the last few days a good deal of progress has been made in the direction of combating corruption. Hopefully, in the last stretch, both the government and Team Anna will show the maturity required for bringing in a strong law. For this there has to be a spirit of give and take, which is an integral part of democracy. Coercion in any form should be avoided. There are good men on both sides. There is a time and place for everything and now is the time for Mr Hazare to end his fast. He has much to contribute in the future. If the situation slips out of control, both the Congress and the BJP will be held responsible, along with Team Anna.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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