How do you solve a problem like the Lokpal Bill?

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 22, 2011 06:32 hrs

We should have known that delusional actors would star in the Lokpal Bill drama when Anna Hazare wrote to Sonia Gandhi, appealing to her to bring in a strong institution to fight corruption.

But then, Hazare may have had his reasons to choose his addressee. After all, she wasn't accused of receiving kickbacks in the Bofors case, and Ottavio Quattrocchi - believed to be a good friend of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi's - is innocent as a newborn babe, according to the CBI as well as Indian courts.

Since she received a letter from the new avatar of the original Gandhi, the Italian-born ruler of the ruling party in India has been writing back to him, promising that she does not support the smear campaign her party has been conducting against the Joint Drafting Committee's civil society panel, which Hazare heads.

The Prime Minister, who still harbours misconceived notions about Caesar's wife, made his way to centre stage next, after the comic relief provided by the outcry against Hazare's eulogy to Narendra Modi.

And he hasn't left. He's been called 'weak', 'honest', 'man of integrity', 'leader of world leaders', 'ineffectual' and 'a puppet'. Then, Rahul Gandhi's mentor Digvijay Singh made yet another gaffe - an art he seems to have passed on to his pupil - by saying the time was ripe for Sonia's little boy to become Prime Minister. Who needs a Lokpal when a Congressman can dismiss you, eh?

Manmohan Singh has remained stoic in the face of a to-be-clumsily-withdrawn comment. He may not have been particularly perturbed, given that Rahul Gandhi is India's surest shot at having a Sarah Palin. Come on. They're both brunettes, they don't look their age, they have visions - of rape and Russia, respectively - and they entertain the press all the time.

Rahul thinks Hindu extremism poses a greater threat to India than the Lashkar-e-Tayebba does, he blames Naxalism on "poverty and connectivity", has said his mother has inspired him to fight corruption, said he doesn't have to become Prime Minister because he has other job opportunities, and that we give too much time to Pakistan, which "isn't half as important as we make it", less than a year after the Mumbai terror attack.

Anyway, we digress. Where were we? Right, delusions. Well, we didn't digress. Apparently, the Centre is willing for the Prime Minister to come within the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, but not when he is in power. Sigh! If only Nixon had been Indian!

The government doesn't want the higher judiciary to be within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill either. What, don't we trust our judges? It's not like we've had a PF scam...err, no, wait, it's not like the Chief Justice of a High Court has been accused of grabbing lands...err, no, wait, let's keep it simple. What, don't we trust our judges?

When all this was going on, Baba Ramdev staged what started off as a farce, and ended up in a police crackdown on thousands of unarmed citizens, and a cross-dressing escapade for the homophobic Baba.

Perhaps provoked by Sushma Swaraj's impromptu gyrations at Rajghat, everyone started discussing the behaviour of MPs. Here, the government only seems to have a problem with the Lokpal monitoring their behaviour within Parliament. Technically speaking, one supposes Jyoti Singh, a.k.a. the woman who broke flowerpots in the Bihar Assembly, could be hauled up - metaphorically speaking, of course - because the action happened on the threshold.

Whether the government panel made this clear at the meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee or not, the civil society panel was having none of it, and Anna Hazare announced that "there is no other way except fasting" if the government does not pass the legislation in the form he has campaigned for by August 16. The smiling septuagenarian is now thoroughly disillusioned with the government's promises, and is focusing on a 'movement'. Let's hope the word doesn't encourage Arundhati Roy into throwing her lot in with him.

Then, Pranabda decided to hold a meeting to brief the leaders of the UPA about the standoff with the civil society panel over the Lokpal Bill - just in case they hadn't watched the news. Sadly, DMK patriarch Karunanidhi couldn't join the committee in its discussion against corruption despite being in the capital, because he was busy meeting his daughter, who is in jail on suspicion of corruption.

Speaking to the press, Kapil Sibal indulged in some wordplay on a "parallel government outside the government." Unfortunately, the minister ended up asking for a strong "independent, investigating and prosecuting agency", but which had checks and balances on its functioning, just in case it turned out to be corrupt too. One never knows, huh?

So, what do they all decide to do? Leave it to the Cabinet to decide. But wait, that's a problem! Because the Cabinet consists exclusively of ministers, who are part of the ruling coalition! Never mind that a bunch of ministers have been accused of graft, this is a body of elected representatives of the civil society, and therefore better than the civil society.

I think the only way to break the deadlock over the Lokpal Bill, without either party running roughshod over the other, is to demand that there should be a Cabinet from the civil society too.

And while Baba Ramdev may dream of heading it, we must realise that this is a very tricky position.  There's a certain prejudice in place. So, the person best equipped for it would be Celina Jaitley - after all, she has gone on air saying "gay people are just like normal people". It can't be too hard to convince the government that citizens are just like elected citizens, can it?

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The author is a writer based in Chennai. She blogs at

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