FE Editorial : Lokpal lessons

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Dec 29 2011, 08:43am hrs
If Anna Hazare had the government on the backfoot for several months, the boot seemed on the other leg on Wednesday when failing health and thin crowds forced him to end his 3-day fast ahead of schedule and even call off other agitation plans including a jail bharo andolan and gheraoing houses of MPs. Hazare has said he plans to regroup, to draw up a detailed agitation plan, but whether that works has to be seen.

But now that the government has done so much homework, including pushing the Judicial Accountability Bill, grievance redressal systems for citizens and a more elaborate mechanism to deal with charges against government employees, it would be a pity to give it upwere this to be done, it could give a fresh fillip to the Hazare movement which may have lost some support because the political class was seen as reacting to it. The Bill is not perfect, but fixing it requires all parties to cooperate, not grandstand. The BJPs demand that the CBI be autonomous does seem a stretchafter all, for the Lokpal-referred cases, the Bill provides for the CBI reporting to it. Also, as a study on the Karnataka Lokayukta showed, the core of the problem was the shortage of judicial benches to try casescases under trial are, on average, more than 5 years old.

The larger lesson, in terms of getting other legislation passed, is the UPA needs to work on its management of allies. If it wasnt bad enough that FDI in retail and pension reforms got scuttled by Mamata Banerjee, Tuesdays debacle over constitutional status for the Lokpal was due to 46 MPs from parties who support UPA from outsideSP, BSP and RJDwalking out during the debate (this allowed the Bill to be passed but ensured the Constitution status motion failed) and 18 UPA MPs missing in action.