By Arun Pratap Singh
DEHRADUN, 20 Jan: The BJP had in its manifesto for the 2017 State Assembly Polls (called Vision Document by the party) promised constitution of the Lok Ayukta within a hundred days of coming to power. Not only this, even after coming to power and after the formation of the government, State BJP President Ajay Bhatt had also declared that the government would soon set up the Lok Ayukta in the state. However, during the past one year and more, the government has been dithering in this regard. Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has during the past one year more than once claimed that there is no corruption in the state and, therefore, there is no need to constitute the Lok Ayukta.
Political observers point out that, had the Congress in the state been in a strong position and united, it would have been able to make a big issue out of this lack of will in the government to set up the Lok Ayukta in the state, but it had failed to do so. Of course, in the state assembly, the Congress has raised this issue several times but failed to force the government to take well intended steps towards constituting and appointing the Lok Ayukta. Political analysts claim that while Congress does wish to make a big issue out of the whole thing and even draw full political mileage out of the government’s failure, it also is not serious about setting up of the Lok Ayukta. They further remind that, in Uttarakhand, so far no government has been repeated and the Congress hopes to come back to power in 2022. The Lok Ayukta could then become a liability for it, too, despite the fact that the Supreme Court had about a year ago directed the state to set up the institution.
Meanwhile, the Lok Ayukta Bill presented in the State Assembly soon after the BJP had come to power in 2017 was referred to a Select Committee. Further necessary action on its passage does not seem to have been taken. It may be recalled that the Opposition members had raised objections to “weakening of the powers of the Lok Ayukta” when compared to the Bill passed seven years ago by Maj Gen BC Khanduri (Retd), who had been brought back as CM by the ruling BJP in Uttarakhand.
Taking advantage of the objections, the bill was referred to a select committee by the Government and has not been debated in the House, since then!
It is learnt that the Select Committee has cleared the bill, recommending some amendments, but it has not been taken up. Whenever the Congress members raised the issue, the government claimed that the bill was now the property of the House and the government could not take it up on its own!
Speaking to this correspondent, Chief Spokesman of the Pradesh Congress Committee, Mathura Dutt Joshi claimed that it was not a matter of surprise that the government was not interested in constituting the Lok Ayukta, as it apprehended being exposed on its claim of ‘Zero Tolerance’. Joshi alleged that the CM and his government were misleading the House as well as the people of the state on the issue. In the House, the government was claiming that it was serious about constituting the Lok Ayukta, but publicly it was now claiming that it was not required in the state! He also claimed that though the government was claiming to be zero tolerant towards corruption, there were certain allegations against some personal staff of the CM on corruption. He added that it would have been in the general public interest for the government to set up the Lok Ayukta so that these doubts and allegations could be cleared.
On the other hand, speaking to this correspondent, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prakash Pant claimed that the government had done its job. It had drafted the bill and had presented the bill before the House. However, it was the Opposition that had objected to the provisions and therefore it had to be referred to a select committee. Now, it was the property of the House and it was up to the Business Advisory Committee to take it up. He further claimed that while the government was functioning in a most transparent manner and there was no corruption, the government had no hesitation in legislating the bill and setting up the Lok Ayukta!