Any positive step towards the appointment of an anti-corruption ombudsman should be welcome, even if it’s taken under the apex court’s diktat. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, was the bequest of one of the most striking political events of our times—a popular movement against the all-pervasive corruption in the system, triggered by a CAG report on the “presumptive loss” of `1.76 lakh crore to the nation in the 2G spectrum sale. A watershed moment in Indian democracy, India Against Corruption brought the UPA government to its knees and eventually ensured its exit. While it was on, it even deigned to rival Parliament as the people’s platform. The lack of confidence expressed thus in the system changed the country’s political course.
Ironically, the movement’s political outcome has itself come in the way of India getting its first Lokpal. Since much leaves to be desired vis-a-vis existing regulatory mechanisms, as the banking scam shows, the Lokpal may serve as a redressal mechanism, if not an outright deterrent, thus making the system a little more accountable. This being the context, the government’s moves appear somewhat half-hearted. The BJP can’t be blamed for wanting to rub in the point that the Congress does not make the cut to take the slot of Opposition leader. But it has accommodated and consulted Mallikarjun Kharge, as the leader of the largest opposition party. It should make that formal, turning him into a full member of the selection panel. It’s imperative that the Opposition too has its say in the selection process—only that can make it truly credible. Besides, a functioning Lokpal may bring relief to the people.
If the Centre wants to take the fight against corruption to the next level, it should proceed apace in the right direction and not wait for the courts to again point out that keeping the Opposition in the neither-here-nor-there category of ‘special invitee’ is not acceptable. Parliament is in session and an amendment would not be difficult to pass. The Opposition too should drop politics and back such a move.