Drafting of a new Lokpal Bill – has it opened a pandora’s box?

Recent efforts by the government to draft a new Lokpal Bill, the setting up of a drafting committee and issues raised by media and political leaders have opened a pandora’s box.

 Discussions around the Lokpal Bill have cornered media headlines and government pronouncements in recent days. A Committee consisting of government representatives and activists has been formed to draft a new Bill after a wave of protests against the draft Bill presented by the government. Several cabinet ministers and political leaders have been regularly commenting on developments related to the redrafting of the Bill. The National Advisory Committee, headed by Sonia Gandhi, has urged for a strong Bill. Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, while addressing senior bureaucrats recently, pointed out that “people will not tolerate the prevailing state of affairs” and pledged swift action in the form of a Lokpal Bill to be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.   While it is being reiterated by the government that the Lokpal Bill will concern itself only with the elimination of corruption, the discussions around the drafting of a new Bill have been critical about the representative democratic system itself. Corruption being a fellow traveler of the existing political system, it is no wonder that voices are being raised more and more stridently that we need to critically examine the political system itself if we are to make any headway in eliminating corruption.   The scandalous way in which the biggest corporate houses have been controlling the past and present governments and determining their policies, revealed by the 2G and other scams, shows that the political system in vogue today functions under the dictate of these corporate houses. It is not accountable to the people.   Each successive election reveals that the majority of our people — workers, peasants, middle strata and intellectuals— are increasingly being marginalized from the political process. Political organizations and forces representing the people who actively organize to defend the rights of the people day in and day out do not have a say during elections. The political process is dominated by the parties of the biggest monopolies.     The executive, legislature, judiciary and various audit, investigative and monitoring agencies set up under the present political process of representative democracy are not accountable to the people and work for the ruling class.   Our people have been incessantly demanding that electoral laws be reformed so as to end criminalization of politics, the dominating role of money power, and to increase the space for people's organizations, and ordinary people to contest elections. However, the Election Commission has been ridiculing the participation of people and their organizations and instituting measures to curb people’s candidates, after dubbing them "non-serious".   There are two conclusions that we can derive from the existing state of affairs. The first conclusion is that, corruption is a fellow traveler of the present political system and cannot be eliminated unless the political process itself is changed, replacing representative democracy with direct democracy. So, a Lokpal Bill that doesn’t touch the existing political process cannot make a dent on corruption.   Secondly, to find a solution to all the grave problems facing us, we cannot remain on the sidelines of political power. We have to organize ourselves into Samitis in each region, place of work and residence, and demand the right to select and elect candidates, the right to recall our representatives and the right to initiate legislation to serve our interests. We should demand a say in running the day-to-day affairs of the country.   Why have the news media and political party leaders suddenly become hyperactive on the perceived threat to representative democracy? Why are arguments being advanced that the office of the Prime Minister and the judiciary should not be included under the ambit of the Lokpal and that separate legislation and mechanisms should be created? Why is the proposal to subsume the powers of the CBI and CVC under the Lokpal being vehemently opposed? More importantly, why are all kinds of allegations being made about the “integrity” of some members of the committee?   Let’s discuss these issues in my next blog.
Posted In: Political Process    Electoral Reforms    Peoples Initiatives    General    Representative Democracy    Judiciary    CBI    2G scam    CVC    corruption    electoral reforms