The Modi government seems to have climbed down from its obstinate position on the appointment of a Lokpal by convening a meeting of the selection committee on Thursday. It had taken the view that the appointment was not possible as there was no recognised Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Under the Lokpal Act, the Leader of the Opposition has to be a member of the selection committee. This was only a technical argument, meant to avoid appointing a Lokpal.
The government has got other laws, like those for appointment of the CVC and the CBI director, amended to enable the leader of the largest opposition party to serve on the selection committee. The Supreme Court also said in its judgement in April 2017 that the government could go ahead with the appointment of the Lokpal with the leader of the single largest opposition party on the committee. It also set a timeline for the appointment.
The government has now moved on the matter, perhaps because a contempt petition has been filed in the Supreme Court and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has decided to launch an agitation. It has again given an assurance to the court, which has sought an affidavit on its action in the matter by March 5. Anna Hazare, whose agitation for the creation of the Lokpal during the UPA government’s tenure had led to the enactment of the present legislation, has announced his plan to launch another agitation. He has declared that he would start Satyagraha in Delhi on March 23 and tour the entire country to bring pressure on the government to appoint the Lokpal and to bring in electoral reforms. He has stated that it will be an “aar ya par” anti-corruption battle this time.
The BJP had politically benefitted from Anna Hazare’s agitation, which helped to show the UPA government as corrupt. The party backed the agitation and Narendra Modi rode piggyback on it to the prime minister’s office, making anti-corruption his main poll plankin the 2014 elections. But the BJP’s and the Modi government’s commitment to the Lokpal has always been in doubt. Though the legislation was passed in 2013, no positive action has been taken place in the past four years. The government actually diluted the law by removing the provision for declaration of wealth by the members of the families of government officials. Modi had also kept the office of Lokayukta vacant in Gujarat for many years when he was the state’s chief minister. So, we can only keep our fingers crossed in hopes of a good outcome from Thursday’s meeting, especially because the leader of the single largest opposition party is only “a special invitee”.
via Lokpal: PM moves, but reluctantly