Finance minister and government’s ace trouble shooter, Pranab Mukherjee, had cited “coalition compulsions” as the reason for keeping the Prime Minister out of the Lokpal’s ambit, during the joint drafting committee meetings with Anna Hazare’s team between April and June.
It was during the fifth joint meeting on May 30, that the differences between the government and team Anna spilled out in the open on the issues of bringing the Prime Minister, judiciary and the conduct of the MPs inside parliament within the Lokpal’s purview.
These are the excerpts from audio tape recordings of the meeting:
Pranab Mukherjee: The bill can only be drafted according to the constitutional framework. We are suggesting that only one person be kept of Lokpal is the PM. It is not final and only a suggestion.
Justice Santosh Hegde: People are asking us why the PM and judiciary are being kept out ?
Mukherjee: We have not closed the issue, as the home minister (Chidambaram) said it is one of the views. In today’s situation, the political atmosphere has also to be kept in mind….
Hegde: Let me put it this way, the government’s own draft of 2010 has put the PM under Lokpal with some conditions, what has led to the change of stand from then to now ?
Mukherjee: That is what I was explaining, we are living in an era of coalitions. Choosing the PM is not that simple as it was in the past that the majority party will elect its leader. The ground reality today is that since 1989 no political party has been able to get a majority on its own. In coalition governments PM has a major political role other than the constitutional duties. So what you are saying is constitutionally possible but practically it is very difficult.
Shanti Bhushan : So you are disowning the bill drafted by the law ministry? What was the view of the cabinet ?
Hegde: It is only a draft at this stage. Correct ?
P Chidambaram: Shanti Bhushan ji — it is only a draft at this stage which is under inter-ministerial consultations. It has not yet gone to the cabinet.
Bhushan: So you are not ready to accept provisions of UN convention against corruption ?
Chidambaram: At the moment, there are many suggestions, and no final view has been taken. The PM can be under Lokpal, he can be there with some conditions and he could be out. We are willing to discuss all the options.