The Lokpal fiasco in Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha vividly reflects that political parties were not keen on passing the anti-graft bill. On the one hand, the ruling dispensation, despite knowing its inadequate numbers in the Upper House, stuck to its gun and shrugged off the objections raised by the Opposition, on the other the constituents of the UPA also took exception to the present version of the Bill that led to Lokpal logjam. The sticking points of the Lokpal Bill were provisions related to Lokayukta and autonomy of CBI. Another significant issue was the government’s control over selection and removal of Lokpal. Barring to the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, all other political parties minced no words while objecting the provisions for Lokayukta. The ruling party on the one side termed it unanimous decision, on the other the Opposition and allies of the government squarely said that the provisions for Lokayukata are intrusive and could ruffle the federal structure of the country. The objections of the Opposition could have some valid grounds, but it is difficult to understand, why not they frame a law like Lokpal in states? There is no sense of forming two separate anti-graft bodies for the Centre and states simultaneously on the pretext of violation of federal structure of the country. Do the corruptions of states differ from that of the Centre?    

The constitution of Lokayukta in states was a major demand during Anna’s movement against corruption, which was supported by people across the country, and there was an approval on it in the House. The point made by the ruling party is logical that provisions for Lokpal and Lokayukta were made in order to honour the United Nations Convention against Corruption, but the moot question is: why has the government failed to remove doubts in this regard? It is intriguing, why the government could not lend its ear to the demand of its allies that Lokpal Bill should be tabled in the House with the consent of two states so that other states could follow it. During the debate in the Lok Sabha it was made clear that the Opposition parties were not in agreement with the draft of Lokpal Bill, but the Centre could not take them into its confidence and hence the government failed to give a constitutional status to Lokpal. The government was embarrassed after the defeat in giving constitutional status to Lokpal, but instead of learning any lesson it became stubborn.

The objection of the Opposition parties was right that until there is a government control over CBI, Lokpal could not work effectively. It could be debatable if the CBI should be put under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, but there is no sense of keeping the premier investigative agency under the control of the Centre. As far as the CBI is concerned, it could be logical that CBI has to tackle many issues including corruption, so it cannot be kept under the ambit of Lokpal, but does it mean that it should remain under government’s control. The objection of the Opposition was quite right that the selection and removal of Lokpal should not only be government’s prerogative, but the ruling dispensation shrugged it off despite knowing its less number in Rajya Sabha. The government discussed with the Opposition regarding Lokpal in the Parliamentary Standing Committee and all-party meetings, but it remained stuck to its own guns in the House. It is also surprising, why didn’t the Opposition take exception to the provisions of Lokayukta in the Parliamentary committee? Despite Lokpal debate in Rajya Sabha being stretched to midnight, but the way the ruling party ignored the objections and the Opposition pressed for 187 amendments, it clearly reflects that the anti-graft legislation was purportedly made complicated.

As no effort was made to break the Lokpal logjam in the House, people reached the conclusion that political parties didn’t want to constitute Lokpal. Some of them have clearly expressed their feelings in this connection. Some school of thoughts said that there is no need of forming Lokpal, while others dubbed it albatross around their neck. It seems that political parties are not keen on removing corruption and they want government machinery and politics to remain ineffective. The Lokpal fiasco in the Rajya Sabha drives home message that how a law making institution avoids making legislations. The political parties seem to be shying away from making a powerful ombudsman, a brainchild of Team Anna which was supported by people across the country. Despite promise, neither passing Lokpal nor making anti-graft legislation is a sort of disgrace to the nation. It is double whammy for people who are already feeling pinch owing to the government’s failure on economic front that no concrete step was taken to weed out corruption.      

The bygone year was replete with challenges for the country as well as the world. The slowdown of the US economy and Eurozone crisis have pushed the world to the verge of recession. Surprisingly, India suffered the most from it. The economic condition of India has gone from bad to worse, because the government failed to take requisite decisions for economic reforms. The shortcomings of coalition are also responsible for delaying in taking economic decision. The constituents of UPA are hooked with parochial interests. The Central government was always reluctant in taking important economic decisions due to compulsion created by its allies and eventually the country faced the repercussion. If the shortcomings of coalition politics are not rectified, the development of the country could be hampered in this New Year as well. In democratic establishment, it is natural that every political party puts across its points, but there is no sense to put an issue of national importance on hold. The Centre takes decision n terms of national interests, while allies attach importance to their own motive. It would be prudent if a serious deliberation on coalition politics is made in the New Year. It is essential because drawbacks of coalition politics may crop up after the assembly elections in five states, especially Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on January 1, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)