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Politicians PAYING the price for scuttling Lokpal Bill

Last updated on: October 22, 2012 11:23 IST

Politicians PAYING the price for scuttling Lokpal Bill

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The reason why corruption charges are designed to do reputation damage more than anything else is that such charges are rarely brought to closure, points out T N Ninan

Arvind Kejriwal could be accused, with some reason, of being like a Bofors gun -- he "shoots and scoots".

The specifics of the allegations that he makes in each case may be wrong or off the mark, but he is not waiting to provide explanations or get into arguments, because he has moved on to his next target. It is hard to tell whether this tactic will be effective, particularly in the face of a "club class" of politicians who are willing to brazen it out, come what may.

But the systemic dangers are evident. In a milieu already replete with scams of one kind or other, the rapid-fire allegations against more and more politicians raise two possibilities: one is to encourage a cynical mood that says sab chor hain (they are all thieves) and which therefore spreads a sense of defeatism on the corruption issue; the other is a backlash from the political system -- to restrict the scope of the Right to Information law, redefine corruption more narrowly so as to give more protection to ministers and officials, and to find ways to tar the private sector with the same brush (all three of which, please note, the prime minister has proposed!).

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal


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Politicians PAYING the price for scuttling Lokpal Bill

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The question to ask is whether, when charges are flying thick and fast in all directions, the institution of a Lokpal -- which the movement led by Anna Hazare had made its single-point demand last year -- would have made a difference? Would it, in the first instance, have provided protection to those who feel wrongly targeted?

After all, a reference to the Lokpal would have led to proper scrutiny, and clearing of the air if the charges were baseless -- so that reputation damage was avoided. Salman Khurshid would not have needed to threaten answers written in blood, if all he had to do was present his case to a Lokpal.

Similarly, those hurling accusations today would have had to be more responsible because any charges they make would quickly have been put to the test. Finally, those guilty would not have been able to brazen it out, as is being done today, because their actions could have been referred to the Lokpal by any ordinary citizen.

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Image: Salman Khurshid


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Politicians PAYING the price for scuttling Lokpal Bill

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In short, when the Rajya Sabha's members manoeuvred a situation where the debate on the Lokpal Bill was extended till past closing time, and thus sent into cold storage from which no one wants to retrieve it, was a deeply cynical political class shooting itself in the foot?

It has been said before but is worth saying again -- the reason why corruption charges are designed to do reputation damage more than anything else (through "shoot and scoot" tactics) is that such charges are rarely brought to closure.

The official investigation and prosecution agency (the Central Bureau of Investigation) is thoroughly compromised, dances to its political master of the day, and carries no credibility as an agency that is either autonomous or free of corruption.

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Politicians PAYING the price for scuttling Lokpal Bill

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The political class may have found this arrangement a convenient one at a certain stage in the evolution of the system, but is that still true when key elements of the system have changed?

The Comptroller and Auditor General is more assertive than before, the RTI law is a powerful tool in the hands of ordinary citizens, civil society organisations are more active players, round-the-clock electronic media amplifies even relatively minor issues into campaign-worthy subjects, and a growing middle class is more responsive to corruption issues.

That's five good reasons why the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. So does the Lokpal offer a sensible solution?

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Image: A rally to demand the Lokpal Bill


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