Is there anything the UPA Government can do right? The honest answer has to be a big no. A complete lack of leadership has resulted in a total mess all around. Every facet of governmental activity has suffered from a gross leadership deficit, skewed priorities, a wrong-headed approach. Small wonder then the government is revealed in a very poor light everyday, often on multiple counts. Take the latest case of terrible mismanagement. It thought it would try and live down its record corruption by conceding the long-standing demand for an anti-corruption ombudsman. At the very fag end of its five-year term, the passage of the Lokpal Bill in December was made possible due to the active support of the main Opposition. Yet, the Bill was riddled with an unseemly objective: the party in power wanted a friendly person as Lokpal. Somehow, the Bill was passed. But the selection process has exposed the infirmities in the Lokpal Act. A search committee to draw up a panel of names for the government to select its candidate for the Lokpal was sought to be constituted. The first step was marred by an avoidable controversy when the government insisted on appointing its own candidate to the search committee in the face of strong objections by the Leader of the Opposition to his political leanings. Ignoring Swaraj’s objections, P P Rao was nominated member of the selection committee, which has beside him the LoP, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the PM, and the Chief Justice of India or his nominee. The search committee formed by the above selection   committee, however, has been most accident-prone. First, the eminent jurist Fali Nariman declined to be a member, saying that the most “courageous, independent and competent” candidates would be ignored by the selection process. A couple of days later, the designated head of the search committee, the retired Supreme Court judge K T Thomas, resigned, echoing the reasons cited by Nariman. In his letter to the PMO, Justice Thomas questioned the need for a search committee “when the selection committee itself can decide on who should be the members of the Lokpal…” He was concerned that despite the search committee, which was only to submit a panel of names from the applicants publicly canvassed for appointment as members of the multi-member Lokpal, the government would cherry-pick its own favourites.  He also found it unacceptable that applications should be invited for appointment as Lokpal, instead of the search committee on its own zeroing in on the best-suited person for the anti-graft ombudsman.  What was worse was that the selection committee could completely ignore the search committee to  nominate its own candidate as the Lokpal. In other words, a corrupt government wants a friendly anti-corruption ombudsman for obvious reasons. It is, therefore, no surprise that the eminent lawyer Nariman and a respected former judge of the Apex Court have distanced themselves from the charade of drawing up a panel of names for the Lokpal appointments. Frankly, the conduct of the government calls into question its intention to combat corruption. Of course, no single body or ombudsman can tame this hydra-headed monster, which has eaten into the very innards of the `system.’ Unless the incumbent political leadership has the requisite will and determination, corruption will prevail and go largely unpunished. Even the strongest of ombudsmen cannot curb corruption if the men and women in power are bent on being corrupt. Eventually, it is for the people to penalise the corrupt rulers through the ballot box. For, the misuse of ministerial discretion results in the commonest form of political corruption. A case in point is the latest scam in the nation’s heart, involving a big-time realtor and the Minister for Urban Development Kamal Nath. The permission granted to the realtor to convert dairy land into a plush housing project in defiance of the security concerns about the Head of the Republic only further underlines the rampant corruption in the UPA Government. Nath, memorably described in the Radia tapes as Mr Twenty Percent by an all-knowing head of a corporate body, probably had a key member of the Gandhi family as partner in this corrupt enterprise, to bestow unheard of favours on the real estate developer. At a time when the Congress is finding it hard to counter the justified charge about the long series of corruption scams, the grant of permission to build flats on dairy land in the vicinity of Rashtrapati Bhavan is a humongous scandal. What can a poor Lokpal do when the government itself is committed to … what else but corruption. It is just as well both Nariman and former judge Thomas have distanced themselves from the sham enterprise. Let the new government have a look at the Lokpal Act and carry out the necessary changes to make it truly independent of the party in power.

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