Rare show of unity from all parties in stopping clean-up of politics
Ashish Mehta | August 2, 2013
It was an exceptional get-together of our political leaders cutting across party lines. On Thursday, they deliberated in a rare spirit of camaraderie. No shouting against each other, no hurling of accusation and counter-accusations. When was the last time you saw such a scene? The great leaders who – more than any other class of people – decide our collective future were deliberating on matters of such importance that they were all unanimous.
Was it food security; was it about providing one square meal to the proverbial Last Person, the poorest of the poor? Was it about finally doing something about two things that need most attention – health and education? Was it about a security threat to the nation of the kind that would unite all parties?
No. It was about a matter of even more importance. About allowing criminals to contest elections. And also about protecting the turf from advances made by the supreme court.
It was on the expected lines. All parties united to oppose the supreme court’s verdict of early July that disqualifies MPs and MLAs immediately on conviction. They also expressed concern at the erosion of parliament’s supremacy due to “activism” of the apex court.
That was not all. On the same day, the government – as the leader of the pack – decided to amend the RTI Act to undo the central information commission’s (CIC) decision to throw some light on the inner workings of political parties. The government, following a unanimous call from the leading parties, decided that while all other things in public domain need transparency, and while “people have a right to know” and all that is fine, political parties can do without transparency.
As our esteemed columnist Jagdeep Chhokar has repeatedly pointed out in the pages of Governance Now with full evidence [read his latest article on the apex court’s orders here], this is not the first time any move to reform politics has been overturned by the executive. Any initiative to clean up politics a bit – from the supreme court, from the CIC or from the election commission (EC) – is countered by issuing ordinances and passing relevant amendments in parliament. And in this one matter of supreme national interest, all parties are together: the NDA did so in its time, and the UPA has been contributing to the august club now.
If the Congress, which on some other day will claim to be the torchbearer of transparency and the party that gave us the revolutionary transparency law, has some argument why it itself can do without RTI, we are yet to hear it. If the BJP, otherwise so vocal in slamming the Congress for a systematic decimation of the constitutional bodies, has an argument in defence this time, it is yet to formulate it.
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