Ever since the Supreme Court sought a reply from 12 states, including Odisha, on why they have not yet appointed Lokayuktas, there has been outrage in the state over the non-appointment of one by the Naveen Patnaik government. Starting with a motivated campaign on social media (presumably launched by cyber warriors of the Opposition), the outrage has spilled over into the state Assembly and even stalled the House for three consecutive days before it returned to business as usual on Thursday. But the outrage is actually misplaced. I will tell you why.
Let us not forget the context. The Lokayukta Bill was passed by the Assembly on February 14, 2014, less than two months after the Lokpal Act was passed by the Parliament even though the Act, as the Chief Minister helpfully emphasized while making the announcement at the time, provided for a ‘window’ of one year for the states to pass a similar legislation. This was the time when the euphoria generated by the India Against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare was at its peak and the mood in the country, including in Odisha, was decisively against corruption. The time thus was ripe to cash in on the public mood against corruption and the BJD government did just that. How can it be blamed for doing what it did?
And don’t forget that there was an election – to both Lok Sabha and the Assembly - due in the state in two months’ time. For a government that was under fire for big ticket corruption scandals like the mining scam, the chit fund scam and the dal scam, this was an opportunity to whitewash all that muck in one fell swoop and it did precisely that. And all of you fools fell for it hook, line and sinker and voted overwhelmingly for the BJD. What is the point in complaining now? You should have understood that it was a pre-election ‘jumla’ meant to be discarded like a piece of used napkin after it served its immediate purpose. What did you expect? That the Naveen Patnaik government, like Amit Shah, would be foolish enough to tell you that it was a ‘jumla’? If you couldn’t see through the smokescreen, the government can hardly be faulted for it.
Even if you didn’t see through the game at the time when the Act was passed, there was plenty of time for you to realize that the government, having milked the issue for whatever political dividends could be extracted from it, had absolutely no intention of appointing a Lokayukta. Where were you for four long years? Why did you never raise the matter in these four years? Or supported the handful of activists who did? Why did it take the Supreme Court directive to wake you up from your slumber?
Look, even the Opposition parties are so reasonable. Having stalled the Assembly for three days in a row in their mistaken zeal, they realized their mistake and sat quietly, like disciplined and obedient students in a class, as Parliamentary Affairs minister Bikram Keshari Arukh assured the House today that ‘appropriate action’ will be taken after the government ‘examines’ the Supreme Court order on the issue. Do you think members of the Opposition are fools? If they understood the point that such ‘examinations’ do take time, why can’t you? After all, what is four years in the life of a state? Has the Official Language Act passed way back in 1954 been implemented? If you could put up with that for 64 years, why can’t you wait for a few more years for the Lokayukta Act to be implemented and for a Lokayukta - with powers to probe charges even against the Chief Minister, mind you – to be appointed?
In any case, do you really need a Lokayukta to put an end to corruption when you have the greatest warrior against corruption leading the charge against the scourge? Hasn’t the Chief Minister given a clarion call for an end to the ‘PC culture’? Can’t you see how the government fights corruption day in and day out? Don’t you read/see reports in the media about the ever-vigilant Vigilance department ‘netting’ some corrupt official or the other almost every single day? Can’t you see that corruption didn’t wait for a Lokayukta to be appointed and vanished, with its tail between the legs, from the land of Odisha the day the Act was passed? What more do you want?
So, stop cribbing about the non-appointment of a Lokayukta. Better still, join the crusade launched by the government against corruption. And give the ruling party another term in office. For all you know, it may even appoint a Lokayukta in the fifth term!
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV's charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)