Anna Hazare: Sonia Gandhi's civilian coup d’état?
by Sandhya Jain on 12 Apr 2011 39 Comments

Since RTI campaigner Arvind Kejriwal was micro-managing Anna Hazare’s drive for a Lokpal Bill conforming to one drafted by select activists claiming to represent civil society, and as this Bill will yield an institutional structure giving sweeping powers to a certain ideological clique, it may be in order to demand accountability from activists associated with this Lokpal movement.


Readers may recall that under electoral reforms made by our defamed politicians, candidates for public office have to declare all assets and monies held by them, their spouses, and minor children, before the Election Commission at the time of filing nominations. Bureaucrats make declarations to relevant authorities at the centre and in the states.


As Lokpal bill activists derive their clout from involvement with the Right to Information legislation, this writer hereby submits an open RTI application on behalf of the nation. We demand that all prominent persons supporting civil (read a chosen faction) participation in drafting a new Lokpal Bill, make full disclosure of all personal assets and monies held by them, their spouses, and minor children.


Disclosures must cover assets and monies of NGOs they run directly or are associated with, complete with details of projects, funding and utilization, diversification of funds (if any). The institutional revelations must extend to trustees / board members of these NGOs, to reveal links with current or retired civil servants and / or politicians. And since prominent NGOs tend to corner a disproportionate share of government funding, they should henceforth submit to the scrutiny of the Comptroller & Auditor General.


As for Anna Hazare, he has repeatedly shifted the goalposts of his agitation – from civil society participation in drafting a Lokpal bill jointly with government, to membership of the joint committee, to naming its leadership. In his haste to achieve results, Hazare repeatedly invoked Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the National Advisory Council, and urged her to make the Prime Minister concede on chairmanship of the draft committee and notification.


This forced Ms Gandhi to come forward and urge him to end his fast, with diplomatically worded assurances. Her foray into the domain of the Executive and Parliament discomfited even Congress stalwarts, not to mention outfits like the Samajwadi Party, which questioned the creation of legal structures not derived from Parliament, and entrusting power to unelected crusaders with unknown agendas and ample funds to whip up moderate street participation.


The Hazare saga has ended; but the real fate of the draft and legislation lies ahead because what was attempted was a palace coup to destabilize Dr Manmohan Singh. It was a calibrated urban relay-revolution tapping into the Facebook-Twitter crowd’s quest for a ‘worthy cause’ to espouse, with prime time TV playing ball with the patrons of the draft. But there are limits to the attention span of Twitter-walas, and as IPL 4 grabbed eyeballs on 8 April, the Hazare camp began cracking under pressure as many owed their prestige to government patronage and could not afford scrutiny; a compromise was quickly sewn up to retreat from Jantar Mantar.


The spectre of a civilian coup d’état becomes clear as one peruses the draft of the Jan Lokpal bill which seeks to subsume the Central Vigilance Commission so that political leaders and officials come under its ambit, as also the Judiciary. This Lokpal will have police powers to file FIRs, chargesheet the accused, and file cases. It will have judicial power to conduct judicial hearings, send people to jail, and seize private property.


The Prime Minister’s Office would fall in its ambit, something all governments have resisted, even though Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was personally willing to be covered by the Lokpal, and the present Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has nothing to fear from it. The issue, obviously, is about the prestige of the office, not the person manning the post. Worse, this Jan Lokpal bill seeks to make decisions of state and central Lokayukta binding and final. These include powers to dismiss corrupt officials, including judges and politicians.


It does not take a rocket scientist to see that as there is an overlap in membership of the Jan Lokpal draftees and Sonia Gandhi’s publicly-funded National Advisory Committee, both the draft bill and the agitation to inflict it upon the nation draw strength from the NAC.


The draft bill is nothing more than an Uber Ordinance trying to force Parliament to enact it into an Uber Law in order to make the NAC the de jure power of the nation. With such totalitarian powers at its command – equivalent to wielding Emergency style powers without invoking an Emergency and without needing Parliamentary endorsement for any action – Ms Sonia Gandhi and her coterie will elevate themselves into the ranks of awesome leaders like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and her own native Benito Mussolini.


One admires the breathtaking audacity. The only institution they dared not touch (in the first instance) is the Armed Forces. One shudders to think of our fate should they ever acquire powers to meddle with national security …


Since this proposed Hyper Government of NGO-Kings must be selected and validated by a hyper-elite club, the proposed selection committee inter alia includes: the chairpersons of both Houses of Parliament; two senior-most judges of Supreme Court; two senior-most Chief Justices of High Courts; chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission; Comptroller and Auditor General of India; Chief Election Commissioner; Bharat Ratna award winners [a ruse to include foreign nationals like Amartya Sen who managed the mysterious academic credentials of Rahul Gandhi]; all  Nobel Laureates of Indian Origin [possibly the Chemistry laureate with white American wife]; and the last two Magsaysay Award winners of Indian origin [whose contributions to society were hardly known till they received the stamp of approval from the Rockefeller Foundation].


Interestingly, the claim that the Jan Lokpal draft compares with the powers of the Hong Kong ombudsman is untrue. The Hong Kong ombudsman has no powers of prosecution; he merely submits a report to the Chief Executive; and is appointed by politicians. Actually, no country in the world permits civil society nominees to initiate prosecution against citizens, and judge and punish them. It decapitates the constitutional separation of powers. Sonia Gandhi must explain why she wants such powers for a band of moral pretenders owing allegiance to her.


The author is Editor, 

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