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Rahul a very late entrant into anti-corruption crusader bandwagon

By Indranil Banerjea

Amid strong indications that President Pranab Mukherjee did not agree to sign on the dotted line, the UPA Cabinet decided to forego the ordinance route for the anti-graft bills that are foremost on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi”s agenda ahead of the 2014 general elections.
The bills included the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, the Public Procurement Bill and the Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Grievance Redressal Bill.
Even as opinion was divided within the Cabinet on the propriety of taking the ordinance route for bills that are seen as last minute response from the UPA to combat the political attack on the Congress party on the anti-corruption plank, the clincher for dropping the Rahul piloted agenda came after the President”s stand point became known.
They say that a light bulb glows at its best just before it is about to die. Well, the way the hitherto somnambulant UPA government has shown signs of hyperactivity in the recent days, it looks like it is well on its way out and realises that it has very little chance of coming back to power after the May poll. Yet, it cannot be faulted for trying to limit the damage of its spectacular failure and masterly inaction these past five years. Thus, not a day passes without a slew of new proposals emanating from the official sources with the singular aim of influencing the voters. If one day the cabinet announces the setting up of the seventh pay commission ahead of its customary schedule, the next day, it provides interim relief to lakhs of government servants at a cost of Rs. 11,00 crore per annum to the exchequer.
The hundred per cent DA neutralisation would benefit some 50 lakh government employees and about 30 lakh pensioners. Again, if one day it clears big ticket projects cumulatively running into lakhs of crores of rupees, the next day the newly appointed environment minister green signals projects which had been held up by his predecessor for several years. But nowhere do the electoral exigencies of the ruling combine show up so starkly as in the proposal to pass post- haste a slew of anti- graft measures, allegedly propped up by the Congress Vice- President Rahul Gandhi. The proposed Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill and the Right of Citizens for Time- Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of Grievances Bill are supposed to be game changers in the fight against garden variety graft.
Belatedly, the Congress Party had woken up to the need to burnish its image by claiming the ownership of these Bills. Indeed, its PR machinery had worked overtime to ascribe the parentage of these Bills to the one and only Rahul Gandhi. The stratagem had no takers on the non- Congress benches and the bid to push these through in the last days of the recently concluded parliamentary session came a cropper. Yet, in what can only be called a brazen attempt to bend the constitutional and parliamentary norms to the PR needs of the Congress Party, an attempt was made to push these Bills through the ordinance route.
The idea was to hoodwink the country into believing that the Gandhi scion was a crusader against graft, that despite the opposition’s non- cooperation, he had the pro- people Bills enforced through ordinances.
Of course, this ruse would not have worked, given that Rahul Gandhi had maintained a sphinx like silence when corruption scams of humongous magnitude erupted all around him, even as he sat stoically all through. Therefore, the reported decision by the cabinet not to press for the issuance of these ordinances is a step in the right direction. Whether the cabinet developed cold feet at the most likely adverse response of the President Pranab Mukherjee or it realised that even these ordinances would not avert the electoral disaster that awaits the ruling combine is not known. But what is known is that the proposal to implement the so- called anti- graft Bills through ordinances has been dropped.
Indeed, interested parties in the Congress have let it out that the cabinet decision not to take the ordinance route has made Rahul Gandhi very angry with the old guard in the party. Given that there were legitimate fears of the President turning down the cabinet recommendation to promulgate these ordinances, especially after the top lawyers of the government too had expressed such misgivings, Rahul Gandhi cannot be so naïve as not to appreciate the difficulties in pressing ahead with the anti- graft ordinances.
It is claimed that the ordinance rejection by the cabinet has pitted the so- called old guard in the Congress against the young guard owing allegiance to Rahul Gandhi. However, this so- called divide in the party seems to be a figment of the imagination of the media managers of Rahul Gandhi, especially when none in the party, old or young, has shown courage to stand up to the 10- Janpath establishment. Indeed, if the Gandhi scion is really serious about fighting graft, he should start by weeding out the corrupt and the criminal from his own party. The reported move to grant party tickets to the next of kin of those involved in various scams exposes the claim that the Congress Party is serious in fighting graft.
The mistake that the party makes is that it underestimates the collective wisdom of the people. By rewarding the daughters and sons of the scam tainted with party tickets, the Congress leadership cannot establish its anti- graft bona fides. INAV

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