Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday declined to participate in a Lokpal selection panel meeting. He called the “special invitee” invitation offered to him a concerted effort to exclude the independent voice of the Opposition from the selection process of the most important anti-corruption watchdog.
Kharge, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, detailed the reasons for his absence from the meeting. “A perusal simplicitor of the Lokpal Act 2013; its intent and objective reflects that ‘Leader of Opposition’ cannot be substituted as a ‘special invitee’. It is a matter of surprise that our government is choosing to adopt this route as a mere paper formality rather than seek any meaningful and constructive participation,” he wrote.
List not shared with him
The shortlisted candidates’ list too was not shared with him, he said. In a previous meeting, Kharge raised a similar point, saying that without prior information about the shortlisted candidates, he would not be in any position to add value.
The Congress has been demanding that the government should amend the Lokpal Act to state that in the absence of a recognised Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the single largest party in opposition in the Lok Sabha will be included in the selection panel to appoint the Lokpal.
Kharge pointed out that “notwithstanding the rhetoric to fight corruption, BJP government has chosen to not appoint a Lokpal for nearly four years. The Congress led UPA government had passed the Lokpal Act 2013 which came into force on January 16 2014. To anyone familiar with BJP government’s record in not establishing and preserving the office of the Lokayukta in Gujarat, this would not come as a surprise.”
Kharge said Thursday’s meeting was only to satisfy the order of the Supreme Court. The conduct of the government, Kharge said, “seeks to diminish the spirit and objective of appointment of Lokpal in as much as you seek to deny participation, voice and opinion of the Opposition.”
The Congress has also demanded that the Bill must be amended in the coming Parliament session.