Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Corruption

IAC goes political

IAC members launched their political party on Gandhi Jayanti at Constitution Club. They will announce the name of the party on 26 November, Constitution Day. I wondered it may have to do with 26/11. The party could have done without white caps with words “I am common man” and “I want Jan Lokpal” as its symbol. White caps belong to a bygone era. Not many politicians use them.

Arvind Kejriwal appeared on Headlines Today and Times Now. He talked of people fixing the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG. On issues like FDI in multi-brand retail decisions will be through discussions.

The party mentioned its agenda. MPs and MLAs will not have red beacons atop their cars, not use government bungalows and so on. In that case they will have to auction government bungalows. Otherwise former MPs and MLAs will stay on. How will MPs and MLAs who are not residents of capitals manage during Parliament or Assembly sessions? Will there be flats or government accommodation?

Arvind Kejriwal announced agitation on 7/10/2012 against water and power tariff hike by Delhi government. Money saved by cracking down on corruption will be spent on health and education. There will be direct power to people. It means referendum on any importance issue. That happens in Switzerland.

The party should give up the idea of reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies.

Sonia Gandhi travel expenses

How much money has been spent on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign tours? Narendra Modi quoted a figure of 1,880 crore rupees from Gujarati newspaper Jaihind dt. 12/7/2012. RTI activist Ramesh Verma had filed an application in 2010 and there was no reply. Congress has attacked Modi but no reply on how much was spent and why the delay in reply.

Someone said the figure of 1,880 crore rupees is absurd, it is several times the figure of space travel of Virgin Atlantic. Absurd things happen in India. Commonwealth Games were supposed to cost few hundred crores rupees. It went up to 1,02,000 crores.

Sonia Gandhi’s travel includes people who accompany her; her son, daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and security guards. Sometimes she has led delegations to other countries. Once she went to Russia. If the planes were chartered, expenses would have been more. In what capacity did Sonia Gandhi spend public money? As an MP? As chairperson of UPA? As chairperson of NAC? When public money is spent people have a right to know how it is spent.

There may be something embarrassing about expenses. Questions may be raised about expenses on family members. That may be the reason why government does not want to reply to RTI question and Congress is unwilling to face the question.

CIC said government did not spend money on Sonia Gandhi’s medical expenses in August-September 2011. Nothing was said about travel expenses.

Anna and Arvind part ways

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have parted ways. The issue was political formation. Many in IAC wanted to form a political party to fight corruption. Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and some others were opposed to it. The meeting on 19/9/2012 lasted nine hours. Yogendra Yadav was the moderator. Anna Hazare said those who want to form a political party can go ahead with it but should not use his name or photograph. Arvind Kejriwal said Anna Hazare’s decision was shocking, unbelievable and sad.

Baba Ramdev and some other people wanted a split between Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Arvind Kejriwal was opposed to all political parties. Kiran Bedi was in favour of BJP. Arvind Kejriwal did not want to join with Baba Ramdev as there were tax evasion cases against him. RSS people wanted to use IAC against Congress. Industrialist Sitaram Jindal had a role in arranging meetings of Anna Hazare with people opposed to Arvind Kejriwal.

IAC had made corruption an issue and had raised hopes of corruption-free India. Jan Lokpal Bill was its demand. Congress came with a Lopkpal Bill that was not acceptable to IAC but was passed in Lok Sabha. Anna Hazare’s fast at MMRDA Grounds did not have expected crowds. The fast was to last three days. He called off his fast on second day. Congress managed to disrupt Rajya Sabha and the Lokpal Bill was not passed. Chairman Hamid Ansari played a role in allowing discussion till midnight and sabotaging the bill.

IAC demanded resignation of 15 ministers for corruption. The ministers did not oblige. Anna Hazare had a secret meeting with Salman Khurshid. IAC members were surprised when they came to know about it. Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai held fast at Jantar Mantar. Anna Hazare joined a few days later. The fast was called off on appeal by 22 persons. On the last day there was a decision to go political based on an SMS poll. Anna Hazare did not oppose it then.

Corruption is an issue. Congress is doing its best to divert attention from corruption. Coalgate became too hot to handle. Congress came with “reforms”. Soon coalgate was forgotten. TMC issued 72 hours deadline for rollback. Many parties opposed Congress and called for Bharat Bandh. After the deadline expired TMC announced withdrawal of support to UPA.

Fight against corruption is continuous process. Sometimes new challenges develop. Arvind Kejriwal was an RTI activist. RTI was instrumental in exposing corruption. Now two judges of the Supreme Court have made a mess of RTI by their verdict that only retired or serving justices of Supreme Court or chief justices of High Courts can head information commissions and half of the information commissioners should be judicial members. This verdict will create problems in fight against corruption.

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal may fight against corruption separately but it is not clear how effective they will be. It is time for Kumar Vishwas, Shazia Ilmi, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai and other prominent IAC members to take sides. Shanti Bhushan is optimistic that they can win 2014 election. Yogendra Yadav thinks first election is to be lost, second election is to defeat, third election is to form government. In 2009 many people like Gopinath and Meera Sanyal contested as independents and lost.

To form government at centre, Arvind Kejriwal and others need to field 543 candidates and win 272 seats. Without 272 seats they will have to depend on others and make compromises. They should beware of moles who will pass on information and scuttle programmes. They should form a shadow cabinet and decide who will hold which portfolio if elected. Legislative Assembly elections are due in Gujarat and some other states before 2014. IAC members can test their strength during those elections. They need to take a stand against corporate debt restructuring. They need not take a stand against any issue unless it has something to do with corruption. They may take a stand against reservations in legislatures, government jobs and government-run educational institutions or avoid it.

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