Secrets no more secret

There is a great deal of confusion over the Jan Lokpal Bill. But even as accusations and allegations are being traded, the people of this country need to think deeply about the future as the last thing we need is anarchy and chaos. We neither have a perfect government nor do we have a perfect civil society.

But we do have a democracy and all of us have a vote to express our likes and dislikes.
The Lokpal Bill is essential and will prove to be an important measure necessary to curb corruption and extortion, not just in politics but also in civil society where tax evasion is rampant.
Since the drafting committee had its first meeting on April 16, certain committee members have made public comments calling every politician corrupt. Should we deduce from these statements a demand that in future all policymaking exercises be handed over to a handful of moral crusaders and non-governmental organisations that have little faith in electoral politics and hold contempt for all opinion other than their own? Should we empower them to throw punches in all directions but protest loudly when they get a few in return?
I just hope that the second meeting to draft the Lokpal Bill on May 2 will be more fruitful.
As far as the “tapes” are concerned, this is the work of a very sick mind. If any political party is found to be indulging in these methods, it is headed for disaster. No government or group can derail the Lokpal Bill or measures that need to be taken to curb corruption. Look at the 2G spectrum scam, the black money controversy and the Commonwealth Games mess — all these will go to the Supreme Court. I have full faith in the legal system and would not substitute that process for anything else.
Eminent lawyer and former law minister Shanti Bhushan and his sons have a successful legal business and the disclosure of their assets reveals wealth in excess of `200 crores. This is a bit shocking as in the public perception the Bhushan family was not in the “super rich” category. They were always associated with public interest litigations and social causes where there is little scope to make money.
There is, of course, nothing wrong in making money as many other eminent lawyers, like Ram Jethmalani, Kapil Sibal and Arun Jaitley (they don’t practice now as they hold public office), Fali S. Nariman, Soli Sorabjee, Harish Salve, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad, too, fall in this category and have sizeable assets.
But when we have a “moral crusade” then strict scrutiny is inevitable. Leading a moral crusade is very difficult for those with extensive assets acquired under “special circumstances”.
The focus will eventually shift to the legal world where we may find a connection between the 30 million pending cases in the country and a legal fraternity whose turnover rivals that of Bollywood.
One thing which is a reality for 2011 is that with the advent of technology it is difficult to keep secrets. And what applies to the United Progressive Alliance government also applies to Anna Hazare and his team of supporters, i.e. one cannot take public opinion for granted and no one is indispensable.
The fact is that we do not have a shortage of talent. We may agonise over individuals involved in the Lokpal Bill but as far as I am concerned, all 10 members could be changed tomorrow and we will still get the Lokpal Bill within the stipulated time.
Conflicts, disclosures and accusations are a part of democracy. Neither the government nor those claiming to represent civil society can escape public scrutiny, nor can either side claim immunity on the grounds of morality. Those who have something to hide often show a superior attitude and talk of conspiracy theories. There are no secrets now and the public is two steps ahead of both the groups to determine who’s right and who’s wrong. The Lokpal Bill is very much a reality and for this all credit goes to Anna Hazare for creating and channeling the public sentiment necessary for this change. There is a lesson in this for all of us.
The best news this last week was that we will have a normal monsoon, that the Indian Premier League (IPL) has given us a future champion in Paul Valthaty, and the release of human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen.
A great deal of credit for Dr Sen’s release must go to former law minister Ram Jethmalani who has a habit of stirring a controversy by ignoring his party’s thought process and doing the right thing.
I sincerely hope that the current law minister, M. Veerappa Moily, will make amendments to the archaic sedition law because of which thousands are still languishing in jails on frivolous charges.
The Naxalite issue is very complex and there are no simplistic solutions, but we have to look for a “window of opportunity” to begin the long process of reconciliation.
Several state governments are grappling with the issue and the home minister has done well on co-ordination and sharing of intelligence. On internal security front we are better organised than before.

Dynasties are present and prospering in every profession. This “Mama-Papa syndrome” has changed the face of politics both at the Centre and in the states. Since dynastic succession has little to do with ability, competence or continuity of policy, its longevity is guaranteed.
We have seen in recent times the soap opera in Andhra Pradesh where, first, N.T. Rama Rao battled the conflicting interests of his wife, son-in-law, sons and daughters and from the churning after his death Chandra Babu Naidu and the Telugu Desam Party emerged. After 10 years, Mr Naidu was replaced by Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy and his billions. Now his son Jagan Mohan Reddy is trying to regain lost turf.
We have witnessed another battle in Tamil Nadu where the ailing Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M. Karunanidhi has to survive an electoral battle and mediate between two wives, sons and daughters, nephews and grandchildren and former telecom minister A. Raja.
Similar situations exist in the corporate world, Bollywood and the field of art. The legal profession, too, is no different. We ignore most as long as they don’t interfere in our daily lives. But, perhaps, it is time to start asking questions.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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