That’s one more feather in our prime minister’s honesty hat

Don't be grateful the PM has offered to be covered under Lok Pal


BV Rao | July 29, 2011

Daag achchhe hain!
Daag achchhe hain!

The union cabinet finally did what we all knew for certain it would do. It cleared the Lokpal bill in such a state as to just add one more name to the many toothless institutions tasked with fighting corruption.

The cabinet, we are told, discussed the issue of whether or not to have the prime minister under the Lokpal’s ambit. The prime minister himself offered that he has no problem subjecting himself to its jurisdiction.

A few of the younger ones (I mean the 60+ types) in the cabinet apparently supported him and a lot of the old foxes said no way, it will cripple the prime minister.

I have two quick points to make about this. Firstly, should we not trust the prime minister’s instincts in this matter? After all who knows that crippling feeling better than this prime minister? And if he doesn’t think that the Lokpal might cripple him, why are they worried? Secondly, if they are so worried about a new institution crippling the prime minister, what do they want to do about existing paralysis inducers such as the NAC?

Would we rather have a prime minister who is crippled for the wrong reasons (like having to look the other way when a Raja is looting Rs 1,76,000 crore) or one who might be – yes, just might be – crippled for the right reasons like being buried under a ton of serious charges of corruption, of which there is little likelihood anyway? I can’t foresee anybody complaining about the missing paper weights in the PMO or the Lokpal entertaining such complaints. 

I see yesterday’s cabinet meeting for what it was: a complete, choreographed sham. The prime minister would propose a tough Lokpal law, a few lightweights would support him and all the heavyweights would crush them. The prime minister would reluctantly subject himself to the majority view because he is, one, such a gentleman and, two, a true democrat. That would add to his public profile and puff up his honest chest a few inches more while ensuring the government puts up a feeble bill before parliament.

Except that Mr Honesty Personified often forgets that a really good and honest prime minister leads his cabinet and is not led by it, at least not on important legislations that he believes in. When he is convinced about something he either convinces his cabinet with the force of his argument or the power of his veto.

I know we are supposed to feel a surge of gratitude for Manmohan’s benign attempt at transparency and accountability at the top. I feel no such surge. I see that if he has no “objection” to being under the Lokpal, he has no conviction either that he should be covered by it.
He is more concerned about his image than his honesty. Or that of the office of future prime ministers of India.



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