Bye bye Jan Lokpal: Arvind Kejriwal's beloved bill is headed for oblivion

Arvind Kejriwal quit the last time round he was Delhi chief minister because the BJP and Congress combined in the state assembly to block his attempt to pass a Jan Lokpal Bill. Given he literally has no opposition this time round, the Delhi chief minister should have no problem passing the legislation -- except it may not make any difference to the outcome. This time around, he is likely to be stonewalled by the Centre which will view the bill as an overreach by the Delhi government.

The AAP has already said that the new Jan Lokpal legislation will be tabled before the Delhi Assembly after the new government is sworn in. Despite it requiring ratification from the Central government, the party says it is willing to weather any opposition to have it passed and isn't going to make any changes to it .

 Bye bye Jan Lokpal: Arvind Kejriwals beloved bill is headed for oblivion

Modi and Kejriwal may find themselves on opposite sides of the debate on the Lokpal Bill. PIB image

"Let us see what objections are raised. There is a new (central) government in power now,” Sisodia told the Indian Express. 

But while the government has changed, the AAP still has to deal with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung who had raised objections to the bill the first time around.

Jung, at the time, had advised the Speaker of the Assembly not to table the modified Lokpal Bill and had even refused to clear it, arguing that the Assembly did not have the legal jursidiction to pass such a bill -- as parts were in contravention with the Centre's law. And after multiple showdowns over the past year, its not clear whether he'll be willing to play ball this time round.

However, the AAP is adamant about the law and is prepared to bypass Jung if needed, questioning the need for his approval. The party had bypassed him in 2013 as well.

"It makes no sense for the Bill to first go to the L-G, who will send it to home ministry and then it comes back to the Assembly for passage and finally it again goes to the Centre for notification. We'll send our Bill first to the Assembly," Sisodia said in an interview to the Economic Times.

But it's not just the Lieutenant Governor that the AAP has to worry about. The Ministry of Home Affairs has already begun to punch holes in the legislation. Their biggest problem? The law wants to allow the Lokpal to prosecute officials from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Police and other civic bodies who come under the ambit of the central government. Without the central government's consent, the legislation wouldn't be cleared by the president even if the Assembly passes it multiple times.

Other problems that the Ministry of Home Affairs has with the AAP's Lokpal law include the fact that the Lokpal can act in absence of a written complaint and the fact that public servants aren't given a chance to explain their stance before the anti-corruption ombudsman intiates a probe against them.

"This is not possible as these authorities report to the Centre and the situation won't change unless Delhi gets full statehood," an unnamed Ministry of Home Affairs official was quoted as saying in the Economic Times.

Kejriwal has already met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Urban Development Minister Venkiah Naidu seeking full statehood for Delhi but there's no indication that the central government intends to move on this demand.

While the AAP government tries to push through the legislation, it is also planning to bring back the anti-corruption hotline for the national capital in which callers are guided on how to tackle their complaints related to corruption. There are reportedly 3,000 pending complaints that haven't been acted on despite being forwarded by the party's office to authorities in 2014.

The AAP government already has multiple points on which it could have skirmishes with the central government, but it is least likely to relent on the Lokpal Bill, the promise it has been holding out since 2013. With the BJP government unlikely to cave either, the AAP and its supporters may just have to brace for a long stand-off. In the end, Kejriwal will face the same tough decision: Is a potentially doomed Lokpal bill really worth his entire political capital?

Updated Date: Feb 13, 2015 12:27:32 IST