Does the BJP stand for anything, asks Tavleen Singh in the Indian Express. Before she goes on to list the many good reasons why she thinks that the BJP today is no more than a poor copy of the Congress, she makes a brief but vitriolic diatribe against the Lokayukta and Lokpal. She objects to the "sanctimonious" tone in which the Karnataka Lokayukta "condemned" the Chief Minister through a "media trial". She speaks in a pitying tone about Mr Yedyurappa now being presumed guilty even though the law states that he be presumed innocent till proved guilty. If we "end up with a Lokpal", she says, he will "behave in exactly this way". She then cautions all those who have leapt on to Anna "Hazare's dodgy bandwagon" that it is dangerous to allow "leftist crusaders to force their will on an elected government".
That a journalist like Tavleen Singh and a newspaper like Indian Express should be so obdurate in opposing the institutionalisation of a strong, independent Lokpal can only lead one to conclude that for the Indian Express, the Lokpal has become a blindspot. After all, it cannot be that the Indian Express and it columnists lack the perspicacity to see that the existing anti corruption mechanisms have failed miserably to deliver and that corruption can be eradicated only if we have a strong and autonomous anti corruption mechanism.
The Karnataka Lokayukta has, through a team of officers, investigated the allegations of corruption against the Chief Minister and his associates vis a vis iron ore mining in Bellary. Huge amounts of relevant records have been examined. Detailed reports have been painstakingly prepared. There is enough evidence on record to establish a strong case against Mr Yedyurappa and his associates, strong enough for the matter to be placed before a criminal court for prosecution of the accused. However, the law as it now stands in Karnataka does not allow the Lokayukta to initiate prosecution proceedings in the competent court. He is required to place the findings of his investigation as well as his recommendations regarding appropriate action before the government. That is what Justice Hegde has done. That he has also elected to make his findings public is a choice dictated by the total collapse of our institutions. Neither he nor any other citizen, for that matter, expects the government to take action against powerful men in business or politics, notwithstanding the compelling evidence that they have indulged in acts of massive corruption. However, public pressure and media attention can make the government act, even against its inclination. It can make the government examine the Lokayukta's report in an objective manner, and initiate criminal proceedings against the accused if it agrees with the findings of the Lokayukta. The courts will then decide whether or not the accused are guilty of acts of corruption. In the meantime, it is in the fitness of things that the accused not hold public office.
Where does the question of trial by media come in? Media has only demanded that Mr Yedyurappa demit office, there being reasonable ground to doubt his integrity. Neither the media nor indeed the Lokayukta have pronounced the accused guilty. If the statement that there is a strong prima facie case against Mr Yedyurappa and the Reddy brothers is construed as a pronouncement of Mr Yedyurappa's guilt, then the fault lies not with the Lokayukta or with the media but with those who draw the wrong conclusions.
If in the coming months the government acts in such a manner as to restore its credibility vis a vis the battle against corruption, why would the Lokpal feel compelled to "behave exactly " in the way that the Karnataka Lokayukta has? In any case, if a Lokpal is instituted as envisaged by the Anna Hazare team, the Lokpal itself will initiate criminal proceedings against the accused in fit cases. It will not need to wait for the government to examine its findings and grant its approval, and therefore, not feel the necessity of sharing its findings with the public in the expectation of public pressure ensuring that the report is not placed by government officials at the bottom of a pile of dusty files, never to be looked at again!!
"Dodgy bandwagon" ? If at all the adjective 'dodgy" is to be used in public space, it would most appropriately describe the response of political parties ----every single one of them ----to the challenge of eradicating the scourge of corruption. Anna Hazare, his team and his supporters are neither unreliable nor shifty ---to the contrary, they have remained firm, steadfast and clear headed in their commitment to securing an autonomous and strong anti corruption mechanism. Nor can they be dismissively described as "leftist crusaders" -----they espouse no political philosophy, neither left nor right or centre, but only demand a corruption free India. Does the Indian Express and its columnists find it so difficult to understand that an Indian can be pro India even without being pro BJP or pro Congress ?