The farce of the parliamentary debate on the Lokpal Bill

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 was tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 23, 2011 for discussion.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 was tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 23, 2011 for discussion. The draft and a parallel constitutional Amendment Bill were introduced at the same time proposing to create an anti-graft ombudsman with constitutional status whose ambit was to include looking at complaints of corruption against the executive — all government employees, and all ministers, including the Prime Minister (with substantial reservations). The government also tabled the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill to allegedly deal with corruption in the judiciary. Another legislation to give protection to whistle-blowers (those who expose corruption) was also tabled.

The debates in both houses of Parliament on December 23, and 27-29 culminated in voting on the Bills in both houses. While the Lokpal Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, the motion to give it a constitutional status was defeated for lack of majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Discussion was deferred on the other two bills that were tabled alongside – on judicial accountability and on protection for whistleblowers.

The debate saw long speeches from both the government and opposition. The former championed the Bill as an essential step in the fight against corruption that it has taken up! According to the Prime Minister, “the discussion on the Bill was one of the very special moments in the life of the nation. The nation awaits with bated breath how the collective wisdom of this House will be reflected in the vote at the end of the debate [on the Bill].”

The BJP, the main opposition party in both Houses, attempted to introduce many amendments to the Bill to make it ‘stronger” and voted against the Bill and the proposal to give it a constitutional status on the grounds that the provision to make the establishment of Lokayuktas in the states [on the lines of the Lokpal] mandatory was against the Constitution. Words and phrases like “accountability”, “the Lokpal and Lokayuktas must be able to carry out independent investigations”, “independent judiciary”, "independent CBI" were bandied about by both the government and opposition speakers.

The entire process served the bourgeoisie very well as yet another chance to create the myth that these institutions of the state – the executive and legislature – are actually working for the people. Such instances are used by the bourgeoisie to reinforce the myth of a very “vibrant democracy” which supports such open debates and discussion, in front of the whole nation, on issues relating to the Constitution, role of Parliament, accountability of various institutions and their “independence” from the executive!

This cannot be farther from the truth. The fact is that the entire political system and political process is functioning on behalf of the bourgeoisie, on behalf of the interests of the minority of capitalists. Every major policy is made in the interest of this ruling class. The bourgeoisie decides whether or not to make this or that policy and the timing of the policy, directs the executive to pass the necessary laws and uses its political parties in the government and in the opposition to enact the drama of debate and discussion.

Parliament is not the real decision maker. The debate that carried on for three days under the full glare of the media was just to confuse the people, while the bourgeoisie had already decided what to do with the Bill and its political parties had conspired and decided already on the destiny of the Bill! Parliament is just a talk shop where the political parties of the ruling class demonstrate to the bourgeoisie and imperialists their enthusiasm and readiness to pass or kill such bills.

It is important for communists and the broad masses of workers to understand who is setting the agenda for political discourse in our country at the present time. The reality is that it is the biggest Indian and foreign capitalists who have been carrying on the propaganda that corruption is the biggest problem that is oppressing the Indian people. In the conditions of the severe global crisis, the imperialists are at the head of this propaganda that some countries are very corrupt and rooting out corruption will make such countries a better democracy! They want to utilize this as a pressure tactic on various states to bring in changes in these countries to suit the interests of the imperialists. At the same time, the Indian capitalists want that the system should work smoothly without any hindrance to a rapidly expanding economy. They are looking towards the system in the US and other advanced capitalist states as a role model and want to clean up some of the dirt that is obvious, so that the system is more efficient and is more acceptable to international capital. This is why this agenda has become so significant for the ruling classes and it is using this opportunity to dampen the anger of the people and divert attention from the real crisis in the system.

The Indian state is the instrument of the dictatorship of the Indian bourgeoisie. This dictatorship is exercised through a shell of parliamentary democracy. The Indian bourgeoisie inherited from the colonial rulers all the institutions of this state, each of which play their specific role in consolidating bourgeois dictatorship. As Lenin pointed out, the best possible shell for capitalism is this democratic republic. Capital has gained control of the system, and no change of persons, institutions or parties can shake it.

Any number of constitutional or statutory bodies is set up for this purpose. The judiciary, the CAG, the CVC, the CBI, the parliamentary opposition — these are often cited as examples of institutions that serve as 'checks and balances' within the system. In fact, there is no question of “independence” of any institution in the political system. Executive power is supreme and arbitrary even while it is made to appear that power is divided between the various institutions and there are “checks and balances”. They are all institutions of the bourgeois state, defending the capitalist property, marginalising the people and suppressing all dissent. This is the experience of the masses of people in this system.

Corruption is an integral part of the capitalist system of exploitation and plunder. It is a feature of all the capitalist states, both the advanced capitalist states like the US and Britain, and the states like India and China. The bourgeoisie is neither interested in nor capable of eliminating corruption. In the final analysis, what the Indian bourgeoisie wants is to ensure that nothing impedes its further growth and expansion to achieve its global aims. To the extent necessary to achieve this, it will even take measures to regulate corruption and legalise it. It will do everything to dampen the anger and agitation of the people who can clearly see that this system only benefits the ruling classes, a minority of the population at the expense of the majority. It will preserve and consolidate the institutions of parliamentary democracy which is the best shell for its rule. We communists must continue to expose the myths created time and again by the bourgeoisie and clarify that this state is the instrument of bourgeois dictatorship.

We can see that this economic system and the political system that serves to preserve it cannot be prettified with this or that law. The root of the problems facing the people is the capitalist economic system which is based on the extraction of maximum profits from the labour of our people and natural resources of our country by the native and foreign capitalists. The political system and process, and all the institutions, legitimise this capitalist system and ensure the rule of the bourgeoisie. Decision making power vests with the bourgeoisie. We continue to agitate amongst the people that decision making power must vest in the people, not in a minority. Sovereignty must vest in the people and the fundamental changes in the political system and process necessary to ensure this must be carried out. Only when people are sovereign, only when workers and peasants become decision makers, can we reorient the economy to serve the interests of workers and peasants and the coming generations. Therefore, all those who are genuinely interested in the well being of our people, must come forward and take up the program of the Navnirman of Indian state and society.

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