Shredding off its reputation of gratuitously prolonging important agendas, the alacrity displayed by the Parliament to discuss and approve the key points of the Lokpal issue in wake of the public aspiration and request by Gandhian Anna Hazare, in true sense can be termed as a historic move. A similar opinion of the ruling alliance as well as the Opposition on the issue was like icing on the cake. With all his three demands being accepted in the Parliament, it was appropriate for the Gandhian to break his 12-day long fast. Deliberations in both houses of the Parliament have assured the masses on the formation of Lokpal mechanism, which would be adept to rein in corruption to a certain extent. In this context, Rahul Gandhi has rightly raised the demand to bestow a constitutional status to the Lokpal, as the Ombudsman mechanism alone would fail to checkmate the rampant corruption. Only time will raise the curtains on the concept of Lokpal mechanism evolved and how effective will it prove in checking corruption, nonetheless the remedies to prevent this practice suggested by the politicians in the Parliament should not remain confined to discussions. If the political parties have a resolute approach to the issue, they would have to explore the root cause to eradicate corruption from the base.

Political parties should be well versed with the root causes as the methodology of politics has not only helped corruption in mushrooming but also given a free hand to corrupt practices. Actually, apart from being a prominent source of corruption, politics also serves as its conservator.  The modus operandi of political outfits especially the electoral methods have given corruption a colossal shape in the country. After coming face to face with the bitter reality that approving the Lokpal mechanism was essential to win the confidence of masses, the Parliament should understand the changing tides which are urgently calling for political and electoral reforms. Unwarranted delay in political reforms embedded with the ignorance of poll modifications cannot be justified at any account. The ever-increasing menace of money-power in electoral system has posed a major threat to democracy. Be it Lok Sabha, assembly or a local body election, politicians are well aware that winning the seat is virtually impossible without money-power. The profound use of money in elections has gone unabated in the country. The recovery of huge cache of money stashed in bags just before the Tamil Nadu assembly elections is a glaring example of importance of money-power in polls. The overpowering use of money in elections is in the knowledge of the Election Commission and it has made efforts to restrict the corrupt practice, but under the present scenario the measures are effective only to same extent. The Election Commission is well acquainted with the massive expenditure by candidates and furnishing of wrong affidavits by them, but the constitutional body is incapable of cancelling the candidature of such politicians. As per the norms, the candidature of such persons should be cancelled if they are found guilty of spending more money for their election campaign than the stipulated amount. If the norms are not strictly adhered with, it will be difficult to manage the country’s democratic system. It is clear that political corruption has raised a serious challenge before the democracy.   

If the history of corruption is traced, it is found that it had crept in the electoral process soon after Independence. Previously there was a limit to illegal practice of money-power in poll process, but now political parties require billions to win the elections. How the whopping amount is amassed is no longer a hidden secret from the masses. By accepting money through illegal means to win elections, the politicians have opened the floodgates for corruption. The illegal practice which was being previously followed in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections has now trickled down to Panchayat and Urban body polls. No one has been successful in placing a check on it. The increase in the amount being allocated for various development projects on the Panchayat and Urban bodies level each year has been synonymous with the guile activities adopted by the candidates to win these elections. The Parliament cannot be unaware of such shocking facts. Even though the Parliament has objection on politics being termed worthless, one fails to understand why is it not against the political methods which have compelled the people to lose faith in politicians?

Different measures required to curb corruption were discussed during the debate in the Parliament, but an elaborate and consequential discussion on the reasons which gave a free hand to corruption is still required. Undoubtedly, Anna Hazare through the Jan Lokpal shook the conscience of the common people which subsequently stirred up a revolution in the country. It took a long time for the political outfits to comprehend the public outrage on the smoldering issue. It is not a healthy sign for the country that the ruling alliance as well as the Opposition came out of the slumber only after the people hit the streets in protest. This work should have been expedited long back. Slamming and disgracing Anna Hazare at the initial phase of the campaign was not a righteous move. None can praise the scornful effort to diminish the Lokpal issue by framing baseless allegations at the Gandhian. The move exposed the insensitive character of politics.

If not the political parties or the Parliament, then who will listen to the voice of the masses? Will anyone ponder over the startling issue of the long hiatus taken by the Parliament before lending an ear to the masses?  The situation which emerged out of Anna’s protest took a complex shape in a snap of a finger, and the issue needs to be thoroughly discussed by the ruling alliance and the Opposition. Similarly, Anna Hazare and his team will also have to give a deep thought over the point. There was nothing illegitimate about holding fast-protest for Lokpal mechanism. Requests, demands and conditions form a part of a protest, but one cannot advocate the adamant attitude of Team Anna under which protestors claimed that only their views are genuine and they should be accepted by a stipulated date to evolve a mechanism. Restricting itself to only three major demands after making the request for the Lokpal, was yet another slipup by Team Anna. As a result, the entire debate remained focused only on the three demands. Whereas, it was more important to lay thrust on eradicating the root cause of corruption through the formation of an effective Lokpal mechanism. It is highly satisfying that the entire process has paved the way for the creation of Lokpal. However, it is yet to be seen that how long it will take to implement the measures to check the corruption in politics and elections. Will the Parliament ensure that the implementation of these measures does not take a long time as it has done to form a consensus on some points of Lokpal?

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on August 28, 2011 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)