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Posted on 09 April 2011

The ten men on the Lokpal Bill drafting committee

It’s a curious mix of old conservatives, pro-big business and pro-people hardliners

Arpit Parashar
New Delhi

While Anna Hazare’s fast has forced the government to accept the demands of the civil society while drafting the Lokpal Bill, the tougher part of the battle is yet to start. Five union ministers and five representatives of the civil society have been entrusted with the task of sitting together and readying the Lokpal Bill by 30 June.

This is who they are.

Strengths: Ace negotiator, has the Prime Minister’s confidence, experienced minister
Weaknesses: Resists change, sticks to the book, strongly conservative

The most trusted figure in the Congress. He enjoys a good rapport with party president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He is also a member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the party. Given that he is the minister on maximum number of cabinet committees, no sensitive bill gets approval from the cabinet without his inputs. His long years inside and outside the government make him the best bet from the government to put forward its case forcefully, especially on the contentious issue of keeping the Prime Minister out of the purview of the Lokpal.

Strengths: Superb legal skills, understands governance, strongly pro-people
Weaknesses: Too old, has a son in the same committee, anti-State

A former law minister and an eminent lawyer. He is the senior most member of the committee and has been the driving force behind the formulation of the Jan Lokpal Bill. As the law minister in the Morarji Desai government, he had introduced a Lokpal Bill in Parliament in 1977, but it never saw the light of the day because the Janata Party government collapsed soon after. He had represented Raj Narain in the case against then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and won, which led to the imposition of Emergency in India after a long sequence of events.

Strengths: Excellent understanding of administration, sharp legal brain, flexible ideologically
Weaknesses: Pro-business, anti-activism, rigidly bureaucratic

Union home minister and a lawyer. The former finance minister is one of the most trusted members of the Congress high command. His reputation as an efficient minister got him his current job after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008. His skills as a persuasive lawyer and a media-savvy image might help the government get its view across in this media-fuelled campaign.

Strengths: Long pro-people career, strong ethics, patient campaigner
Weaknesses: Rigid negotiator, impatient with government

The man of the moment. Anna Hazare has had many memorable battles with different governments, mostly in Maharashtra. In the early part of the past decade, he led protests and hunger strikes across Maharashtra, demanding a stronger Right to Information Act in the state. The state government had to amend the Act and make it stronger in 2003. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan by 1992 for developing his village Ralegan Siddhi in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra as a model village. He also served in the Army as a truck driver during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. He is believed to be the sole survivor in an air raid by the Pakistan Air Force during the war.

Strengths: Ace troubleshooter, has the Prime Minister’s confidence, legal brain
Weaknesses: Minimises wrongdoing, tends to put party before people

Telecom minister and a successful lawyer. He has been the government representative in the current dispute with the civil society, holding discussions with activists. He is a trusted soldier of the Congress party and fast emerging as its important troubleshooter. A Lok Sabha member from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, he was given the job of clearing the mess created in the telecom ministry by former minister A Raja after the 2G spectrum scam became a big issue. Sibal was an additional solicitor general for the VP Singh government in 1989.

Key Documents [PDF]
Anna's letter to the PM
Anna's letter to Sonia Gandhi

Jan Lokpal Bill
Gazette Notification
Lokpal Bill

Anna, left, right, centre, Bollywood, godmen
This is about India, not me: Anna
Tehelka with Anna

Strengths: Strong ethics, super clean record, anti-graft hawk, former Supreme Court judge
Weaknesses: Temperamental, impatient with government

Current Lokayukta in the Karnataka government and a former judge of the Supreme Court. He has been publicly campaigning against corruption after retirement. He stood up to the mining lobby in Karnataka as the Lokayukta and received extraordinary support from the civil society and the public. The response to his investigation against the Reddy brothers, who head a powerful iron ore cabal, forced the BJP government to ban the export of the ore. He is a key member of the group that framed the Jan Lokpal Bill. His name was suggested for the post of chairperson of the joint committee, but he refused to accept it, as he had prepared the draft of the civil society bill.

Strengths: Low key and persuasive, trusted Congressman, ethical framework
Weaknesses: Low in the Congress pecking order, amorphous ideology

Union law minister. Moily is an old warhorse of the Congress and has risen through the ranks. He has held many important posts in the party and the government, including the chair of the Overseeing Committee appointed for the Implementation of Reservations for Other Backward Classes in the past. Basically, he oversaw the OBC reservations. He has also been the chief minister of Karnataka.

Strengths: Fearless campaigner, superb legal mind, clear objectives
Weaknesses: Doesn’t trust the State, has a father as the co-chair of the committee

A lawyer and son of Shanti Bhushan. Another key member of the team that drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill, he has been campaigning actively for it to become reality. He heads the non-profit Centre for Public Interest Litigation and has made useful social interventions in cases of corruption involving public servants, including the 2G spectrum scam case and a case of corruption against former chief justice of India Y K Sabharwal. He is also a human rights activist.

Strengths: Appeals to the middle class, media-friendly image, low key
Weaknesses: Low in the UPA ladder, can be too accommodating

Another lawyer and union water resources minister. A Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist, he represents the Muslim face of the Congress. He appeals to the middle class through his liberal views on minority issues and profile as a writer. He had defended the ban against the Students Islamic Movement of India in the Supreme Court. A Lok Sabha member Uttar Pradesh, he also oversees the ministry of minority affairs.

Strengths: Tenacious campaigner, knows how the bureaucracy thinks, helped draft the RTI Act
Weaknesses: Grandstands, image-conscious, can be sidetracked

A former bureaucrat and a campaigner for greater transparency in government policy. He is an influential member of the group India Against Corruption, which pioneered the movement for greater transparency and did the groundwork in mobilising support for Anna Hazare’s fast. He also played a key role in the passing of the Right to Information Act, for which he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award.


Arpit Parashar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com
[email protected]

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Posted on 09 April 2011



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