Rahul Gandhi speaks, but was it worth anything?By Bala Murali Krishna Aug 26, 2011 4:14PM UTC
So, Rahul baba has spoken.
It might be an exaggeration to say the nation waited with bated breath to hear the prime ministerial heir apparent. Still, there was a great curiosity about Rahul Gandhi’s views on the crusade against corruption because he never grants interviews, rarely talks to reporters and rarely speaks in Parliament. The curiosity was probably greater because it was incumbent upon him to step forward as his his mother, Sonia Gandhi, ranked the seventh most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine, is away after surgery.
So, what did he say?
The young Gandhi, 41, made three points during his address in Parliament.
One, the Lok Pal alone cannot stop corruption. We have heard this one before and, invariably, it is a way to discredit the Hazare movement’s goal. It also smacks of an unwillingness to really strengthen the institution proposed to be created, reflected in the government’s toothless version of the Lok Pal Bill.
Two, protests like that run by Anna Hazare are “dangerous for democracy.” Remember, Hazare’s movement has been remarkably peaceful. In fact, the only instance of violence involved the gunning down, under strange circumstances, of a pro-Hazare activist in Bhopal.
Three, he suggested the corruption ombudsman, or Lok Pal, could be created as a constitutional body like the Election Commission of India?
The third point is the most substantive and positive one. But it also begs the question: Why did the government not propose that in the bill it introduced in Parliament? In fact, the government bill has been seen as an insincere attempt, and a deliberate one to ensure that the newly created institution would be ineffective.
Considering that, it is hard to believe Gandhi’s proposal to create a truly strong institution is any more insincere. It could merely be a bid to stall immediate action on Hazare’s Jan Lok Pal bill. After all, Gandhi’s proposal would require constitutional amendment – which means two-thirds majority in each house. Constitutional experts say states’ ratification would not be necessary for this amendment.
So, the young leader appears to be wrong on two of the three, and even on the third, and his party’s intentions are clearly in doubt. Besides, Gandhi just didn’t connect with the youth of the country, leading me to believe the young man might quickly lose the high ratings he got in several polls ahead of Independence Day.
Meanwhile, hectic parleys continue to persuade the 73-year-old Hazare to end his 10-day long fast. A quick resolution of the crisis could be difficult considering Team Anna and the government still don’t trust each other.