The 4th of August marks yet another anniversary of the ill-fated Lokpal Bill. It was on this day one year ago that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government introduced in the Lok Sabha its version of an anti-graft bill in the face of mounting public pressure and the Anna Hazare movement. The government held out many promises about bringing about a strong anti-corruption law, even as it mocked at the efforts of Anna and his followers, but as everyone is aware, the appointment of a national ombudsman to rein in the corrupt is nowhere in sight.

Far from having an effective law to combat corruption, what we have 12 months hence is a virtual repeat of the drama of 2011. Caught in a maze of corruption, the government continues with its duplicitous ways, with some overt and covert backing from virtually the entire political class; the proposed legislative measure has conveniently been passed onto yet another parliamentary committee with then active connivance of the main opposition party - the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ; Anna Hazare is back at Jantar Mantar on a second indefinite satyagraha despite his fragile health situation; Union Ministers who bad-mouthed the anti-corruption crusader and his followers in August 2011 are also back at work,  with some old and some new accusations against him.

Since public memory is short, it is necessary to re-cap the events of the past year vis-à-vis the anti-corruption law. The UPA government, which was reeling under corruption charges since mid-2010 following allegations of large-scale loot of public money during the conduct of the Commonwealth Games and the sale of scarce 2G Spectrum by the Telecom Minister Mr.A.Raja, was dragging its feet on this issue.

However, once Anna Hazare's movement picked up momentum, the government was caught in a bind. Since a strong anti-corruption law would completely undermine its credibility, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his colleagues resorted to subterfuge and tried every trick in the book to wreck the anti-corruption movement and to discredit its leader.

First of all, the Congress Party pulled out a moth-eaten enquiry report in Maharashtra in a bid to paint Anna black and to question his moral authority to run an anti-corruption campaign. The party's Spokesperson Mr.Manish Tiwari declared that Anna was corrupt "from head to toe". He also made the extraordinary statement that the government had shown "too much tolerance" to Anna Hazare, thereby betraying the fascist tendencies that exist below the surface in the Congress Party. He also made the wild accusation that Team Anna comprised of "armchair fascists, over ground Maoists and closet anarchists" and that they were being funded by invisible donors who could have links abroad.

This was followed by the Home Minister Mr.Chidambaram's justification of Anna's arrest and the government's refusal to grant Anna's request for a proper venue for his fast. The Delhi Police imposed 22 conditions on Anna, some of them bordering on the ridiculous, but they had Mr.Chidambaram defending them. He also made the laughable claim that the union government has no hand in all this and it was the prerogative of the Delhi Police to grant or not grant permission to Anna. The Congress Party was so rattled by the popularity of Anna that some Congress leaders even claimed that satyagraha was a fascist instrument! Mr.Kapil Sibal, another union minister, also tried to give the Anna movement a twist by claiming that the anti-corruption movement was anti-Constitution and anti-parliament.

However, even as it was running down the movement, the government introduced the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 in the Lok Sabha, but its intentions were fully exposed when the bill was promptly referred to a parliamentary standing committee headed by Mr.Abhishek Manu Singhvi, one of the Congress Party's prominent spokespersons at that time. The whole country saw this as nothing but the UPA's dilatory tactics, but the ruling coalition believed that it had fooled the people. This committee deliberated on the provisions of this bill for about four months and finally submitted its report in the second week of December, 2011, recommending major changes in the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha.

It said the Lokpal must have constitutional status and parliament must take a call on whether to bring the prime minister within the purview of the Lokpal. It said group A and group B employees must be brought within the purview of the Lokpal, but the Chief Vigilance Commissioner should have jurisdiction over group C and D staff. The committee wanted MPs to be kept out of the Lokpal's purview in so far as their vote, speech and conduct in parliament was concerned. The judiciary was also to be outside the Lokpal's jurisdiction. It suggested a single law for establishment of the Lokpal and the Lokayukras in the states. Once the committee's report was tabled, the government withdrew the bill it had introduced in August and came up with a new bill - The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. What happened next raised the hopes of those who wanted a strong anti-corruption law.

After much debate, which drew nation-wide attention, the bill was passed by the Lok Sabha and the government raised the expectations of the people by pretending that it would see the legislation through in the Rajya Sabha as well. However, the government's real intention - to stall the passage of this legislation - became clear when the bill came up for discussion in the Upper House on the last day of the Winter Session in December, 2011. The Congress Party's floor managers cleverly ensured that MPs belonging to many small and regional parties raised objections and obstructed the debate.
 
Thereafter, as the debate dragged on, the party took advantage of the commotion in the House and mischievously ensured the adjournment of the House sine die, even though MPs wanted the debate to be concluded. With the abrupt adjournment of the House, the curtain came down on the Winter Session of Parliament, thereby giving the government yet another breather.

However, when the Budget Session of Parliament opened in February this year, the UPA resumed its subterfuge, with many of its ministers claiming that the debate on the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill would be resumed in the Upper House. However, the UPA remained true to its cunning ways and once again sprang a surprise on parliamentarians and the nation as a whole last May, when it announced the bill was being referred to yet another committee – a select committee of the Rajya Sabha. Sadly, the BJP became a party to the government's dilatory tactics. This committee has been given time till the end of the Monsoon Session of Parliament in September to submit its report.
So, even as Anna Hazare has launched yet another definite fast, despite his poor health, the latest government mantra is that it is awaiting the report of the Rajya Sabha Select Committee.

In the year gone by, the UPA government has slipped further down on the credibility meter and strangely, it is taking the main opposition party - the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with it. The BJP, which ought to have been the moral policeman and the standard bearer for clean governance is even more irrelevant today than it was a year ago.

The people have begun to feel that the Congress and the BJP, both of whom are seen as unreliable, are engaged in a mock fight. It is the same old rhetoric and the same rusted arguments and they are fooling nobody. That is why the emerging debate is not about the failure of the UPA but about the failure of the political system itself. Film maker Shekhar Kapur got it right when he said on one of his tweets that "India does not need change of government but change in political system. 65 years of current system has created huge divide between people and governance".