The concern of our political parties on the issue of corruption is touching indeed. But why can’t they use their combined strength to get anti-corruption legislations passed in Parliament? They are known for staging walkouts at the drop of a hat, causing disruptions over all kinds of issues and stalling the house for entire sessions over single demands. What stops them from demanding effective laws and holding the house hostage over these? If they did that ‘holding hostage’, for a change, would assume the halo of a positive force.
Let’s elaborate it further. A majority of parties, barring the Congress, were seen extending hearty support to Baba Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan. The entire NDA stood behind him and many UPA allies, including BSP chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh and the Trinamool Congress, and a section of the Left too showered sympathy for his cause. The combined numbers of these parties in Parliament would easily surpass the half-way mark of 272. The number is enough to drive the precariously poised government scared.
All these members could set aside politics for once and jointly insist upon specific anti-corruption measures. They could demand independence of the CBI from the clutches of the government and reforms of all kind to combat the menace. Since corruption is not an emotive issue like religion and caste and it is free of vote bank concerns, there’s a realistic chance of parties coming together if they are sincere about fighting graft. Curiously, we have seen no such effort. Parties have confined themselves to breathing fire over the issue at public fora only.
They have been insisting, ever since Anna Hazare’s movement hit the headlines last year, that making laws is the exclusive prerogative of Parliament and that legislations could not be made at public protest venues such as Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan. While acknowledging the power of the civil society movement to raise issues of public importance, they were making clear that only they — the parties — were authorised to make the laws. Fair enough. The Constitution allows them that exclusive privilege. But what surprises one is the mismatch between their public posturing and attitude in Parliament.
Members of Team Anna wanted specific commitments from them, which Ramdev does not. The former kept the political class on a short leash, demanding of them to deliver results quickly. Baba Ramdev allows them a long rope, letting them play their political games. In short, Team Anna appeared a threat to everybody while the yoga guru does not appear so. Lokpal, after all, affects everybody’s interest; black money is too vague an issue to hurt anybody.
The primary focus of the parties is to damage the prospects of the Congress in the next general elections; it’s never corruption. Baba Ramdev and the issue of black money offer a platform for them to launch their electoral battle for 2014. It’s a platform they are unable to create themselves. They simply lack the credibility. On the issue of corruption, all of them are as exposed as their principal rival, Congress. So they have to latch on to whatever opportunity the civil society movements provide.
If Baba Ramdev is really serious about fighting corruption, he should ask the parties professing support to him to raise the issue in Parliament, make specific demands and stall the house till these are met. The demands need not be as big as Lokpal, smaller ones like citizen’s charter and judicial and police reforms would do to begin with. It would be interesting to note whether the Baba would have the same uninhibited political support once he starts demanding more. There are chances many of his supporters would end up raking up the exclusive rights of Parliament again.
But chances are that the Baba won’t do anything like that. He is a clever operator. He would have his cake and allow the parties to eat it too. It suits everybody’s self-interest.