Anna is angry. It promises a long, stormy winter for the government. For a change, the government looks prepared to brave the storm which its Lokpal Bill is likely to let loose.
The draft bill is not made public yet but Team Anna is already sensing that it falls short of expectations. Anna has announced that he would go on a three-day fast from 27 December if the bill that Parliament eventually passes does not satisfy him. It would be followed by the jail bharo agitation across the country and campaigning against the Congress in the election-bound states.
Actually, what Team Anna seeks to do does not matter anymore. It also does not matter whether the CBI is under the Lokpal — which was an ill-considered idea in any case. If the government, as media reports suggest, fails to ensure an autonomous CBI, that should be reason to cry betrayal. That was the most important result expected of the long anti-corruption movement. If this does not happen, then the whole effort comes to nought.
According to media reports, the government does not want to tinker with the present structure of the CBI and feels it should continue to function under the department of personnel and training. It means the financial and administrative control of the agency remain with the government. That the head of the agency would be selected by a panel consisting of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and the chief justice of India is only a cosmetic effort at neutrality.
With the entire shoddy history of manipulation of the CBI by governments in power, for political ends — the Congress holds the worst record here — it was required that the premier investigative agency be freed of any external influence while doing its job. The monitoring of its investigation in the 2G cases by the Supreme Court had presented a good example how the agency could be made effective and accountable in cases of serious crime.
Making a strong case for the agency's independence before the Standing Committee, its director AP Singh had argued against the division of the CBI and merger of its anti-corruption wing with the Lokpal. He is reported to have told the panel that such a move would seriously cripple the core functioning of the CBI and reduce it to irrelevance. He sought functional autonomy for the agency. The BJP has been insisting on the same.
Now that the government appears to have decided to go ahead with the earlier arrangement and retain its control over the agency, the only way to stall it would be strong opposition from the BJP and its allies. Team Anna should cut down on its several demands to focus solely on taking the CBI out of the control of the government.
The government, at the moment, takes confidence from the fact that it has delivered on the citizens' charter and the judicial accountability legislation. It could now claim that it has gone more than half the distance to accommodate the demands of Team Anna and it’s the duty of the latter now to make compromises. It might be good for public consumption and might work as an election plank too but with the CBI under its control it amounts to nothing.
When Anna says the government’s "intentions are not clean", now he sounds justified. He has good reason to be angry.
Updated Date: Dec 21, 2011 10:32:15 IST