Anna will be easier to deal with if NAC is sent packingR Jagannathan
If the UPA government is running helter-skelter in the face of Anna Hazare's repeated challenges, it has only itself to blame.
It has tried everything in the book – from half-hearted engagement with Anna in the drafting of the Lokpal Bill to verbal skirmishes with his team (courtesy Digvijaya Singh and Manish Tiwari) to planting stories about the team in various newspapers — and nothing has worked.
Earlier this year, it tried promoting Baba Ramdev to break the anti-corruption camp, but ended up shooting itself in the foot when it found the Baba had his own agenda. The midnight swoop on Baba's yoga shibir dented the government's democratic credentials.
As a last-ditch effort, it tried fielding Rahul Gandhi with "game-changing ideas" about giving the Lokpal constitutional status, but in the end it had to let Parliament to adopt Anna's key demands as "sense of the house". It then tried to scuttle these demands through the parliamentary standing committee's final recommendations on the Lokpal — and this is what has brought on yet another confrontation with Team Anna.
In short, no matter what the Congress-led UPA did, Team Anna has won.
There are two reasons why.
One is that the Congress did nothing to stop any of the major corruption scandals that happened during its watch – CWG, 2G, unfreezing of Quattrochi's accounts, etc. Sonia Gandhi and her National Advisory Council (NAC) members claimed to be working on another Lokpal, but all they ended up doing was convince the public that they were sarkari NGOs. Team Anna was left with sole ownership of the anti-corruption standard. Even the foibles of Bhushan, Kejriwal and Bedi did not dent this image.
Two, this is the original sin. The only way Team Anna's claim to represent civil society could have been rubbished and Parliament's role upheld was by abandoning the NAC. The logic is clear: if NAC can draw up bills without any kind of legitimacy, so could Team Anna. When there is a government and Parliament, why should laws emanate from the NAC's stable? Just to boost the Dynasty's ratings?
Says columnist Deepak Lal in Business Standard: "The fault lies in the creation of the NAC by the Congress president as a body of NGO activists who not only provide the major opposition to the reformers in the government but, in many cases, are usurping the legitimate legislative functions of the elected government."
His solution: "A good start would be to abolish the NAC."
Quite clearly, the government lacks legitimacy in dealing with Team Anna precisely because NAC and Sonia had destroyed its credibility first.
Currently, the government has no option but to give in on most of Team Anna's Lokpal demands. If it wants to regain any of its moral authority and credibility, it must send the NAC packing.
The problem is only the Congress president can do that.
Result: Team Anna wins by default.