Team Anna calls PM-Lokpal issue a Red Herring & a trap

India Against Corruption, the umbrella body led by Anna Hazare fighting for the creation of a strong Lokpal, has called the current controversy over the inclusion of the Prime Minister under Lokpal authority a diversionary tactic and a trap.

The organization, on its facebook page, called it a red herring — a diversionary tactic used to focus everybody’s attention on a matter of lower importance, while matters of real importance can be brushed under the carpet.

“PM UNDER Jan Lokpal (bill) is a TRAP… BE CAREFUL, Be very Careful,” the IAC posted.

It pointed out that just when the entire country starts believing that the fight is actually about including the PM under Lokpal, suddenly the Congress leadership will pretend to give in to popular demand — taking the wind out of the Lokpal movement’s sails.

The government will also come out looking like good guys and any more insistence on real matters — such as the nature of the prospective Lokpal and his investigative powers and infrastructure — by the ‘Civil Society’ leaders will look like unreasonableness and intransigence.

“They will agree to this when it comes to Cabinet level, with Sonia and Pm being gracious and ppl will be happy. They will make a weak and ineffective Lokpal with PM inside,” it pointed out.

Lending credibility to this argument is the fact that the PM was always included within the ambit of the Lokpal in most of the previous avatars of the bill prepared by various governments in the past. Even the latest government draft, put out by Law Minister Veerappa Moily as late as March this year, had the PM in its ambit.

However, of late, the government has opposed including the PM within the scope of investigating authority of the Lokpal — now being seen as a red herring strategy.

IAC, therefore, urged the supporters not to get distracted by this trap and to continue to seek a strong Lokpal, not a weak one with the PM in it. Team Anna wants a Lokpal with real powers, including a huge investigative wing which will probe corrupt officials across the country. They also see the Lokpal as an institution similar to the Indian judiciary — with a central panel, state bodies and district officials.

Ordinary citizens would then be able to go and lodge their complaints against corrupt officials and politicians at the district office of the Lokpal. Lokpal, according to the Civil Society’s plan, will have hundreds, if not thousands of investigators and panelists.

In contrast, the Government wants just 11 people in Lokpal. The eleven people will sit in Delhi and work like a Court. Investigation will be done by the police or the CBI, not by Lokpal. To punish, the 11-member panel are likely to have to suggest prosecution to the police or file a case in an existing Court.

Civil Society has opposed this Panel format as ordinary citizens suffering from corruption at local level will not spend thousands of rupees and several days to come to Delhi to lodge a complaint about a Rs 50 bribe-demand by the local policeman. In addition, a single panel will not be able to attend to the thousands of corruption cases that turn up in India every year, they point out.

They also point out that the Lokpal will be dependent on the existing governmental machinery for both investigating allegations of corruption as well as launching and prosecuting a case against them. Civil Society want both these functions to be a part of the Lokpal’s mandate and capabilities.

IAC urged its supporters to focus on these matters, not fall for the ‘PM trap.’ “Focus on weak vs Strong Lokpal. Strong, effective, all inclusive and accountable Lokpal is our demand,” it pointed out.