Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tuesday , January 03, 2012 at 21 : 59

Lokpal? The joke is on you

A pandal came up outside Ittooppu's tea stall. The year-end came as a bonus for the goat - three days of debate in Parliament on Lokpal Bill, a law that would end corruption in all walks of life and spawn debates across the country for a few days to come. A sure shot money-spinner for Ittooppu. He hired two LCD television sets for the occasion, put loudspeakers on the coconut tree outside, bought extra cans of milk, got vadas prepared days in advance. Ittooppu had made sure he would not be found wanting on the day that mattered. And he was not off the mark, at 11 am, his shop was overflowing with customers. It was one debate no citizen of Junglistan - the political animals that they were - could afford to miss.
"Yesterday was boring," said Kuyilamma, "First they don't debate the Bill and then Anna breaks his fast."

All eyes were on the television.

"Chairman Sir, the procedure for investigation of a corruption case as prescribed in the Lokpal Bill involving the courts, the chief vigilance commissioner, the CBI and the Lokpal is circuitous to the extent that it gives an unfair advantage to the accused. There is no parallel to this anywhere in this world." Lawpoint Kittunni said thumping the desk as hard as he could.

Five seconds of silence, he learnt the art of silence from the orator who led his party once, and then he spread his wings. The Legal Eagle, the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House and a contender for the top job in the country at some point in future, took to the skies. He flew right to the jackfruit tree, turned left, headed to the coconut tree, midway changed direction to turn back, then did a somersault, the kind of stuff Chinese gymnasts do, and when he was about to hit the ground, he took off again in a flash. All eyes in the House followed the leader, the cameras of Jungledarshan strained to track the illustrious speaker and as usual rarely succeeded, and the crowd at Ittooppu's shop jumped up and down as they craned their necks to get the best view of the acrobatic performance.

Kittunni suddenly landed on his desk. The house waited for an explanation.

"This is how the Lokpal Bill currently looks like. Like a jalebi."

"Shame, shame."

"Lokpal nahin, jokepal hai."

"Lokpal nahi, brokepal hai."

"Hai, hai, hai , hai."

"Order please. Let him continue, your man is speaking."

"And now please let us turn our attention to Section 176000, Clause A," Kittunni carried on, "Where in the world does the investigating agency tell the accused in advance they are going to be charged and raided, giving them enough time to hide their ill-gotten wealth."

"Shame, shame"

"Why object, this will benefit you too."

"Now look at Clause C, Sub Clause AR. The accused will be told what evidence has been gathered against him. There is more, Clause E, Sub Clause SK: the accused will be provided legal aid. So is he a suspect or State guest?" Kittunni thundered.

"Shame, shame"

"This guy is cool. Isn't he?" said Mayilamma, taking a sip of Ittooppu's special chai, "No wonder he is called Law point Kittunni."

"You have heard of the 2G scam, the country's worst biggest ever. Dubai takes pride in highest tower, France has fastest train, China gets highest Olympics tally, and we get the biggest scam." Kittunni was in his elements.

"Shame, shame"

"Kittunni murdabad."

"Shut up."

"Ask him to sit down."

"He is wrong, 2G is not the biggest scam in the world."

"So, you admit it's the biggest in India."

"Point of Order. Point of order."

"What's the rule?"

"Rule No 627. They can't talk about 2G."

"We thought Lokpal will give the CBI freedom, true freedom, the kind of freedom we got in 1947," Kittunni continued, "Alas, that's not to be."

"Freedom, true freedom, freedom without accountability," Paachu, the Gandhian tortoise mused, biting a vada.

"Is it a compliment or a joke? What should I say?" a confused member looked at his seniors for guidance. A second later he was seen shouting, "Shame, shame."

"Point of Order. Point of order."

"What's the rule?"

"Rule No 627. They can't talk about CBI."

"We are all citizens of the Federal Republic of Junglistan. Aur humein is pe garv hai. We are proud of that fact," Kittunni said, "But this government is surreptitiously changing our nation's name. It's dropping the 'Federal' part, and I won't be surprised if they drop the 'Republic' too."

"Shame, shame."

"It's a lie. The thought never entered our minds. The honourable Leader of the Opposition may please be asked to withdraw his remark," Mookan, the finance minister stood up.

"But Clause No 9965434 seems to suggest so," Kittunni replied, waiting for members to turn the pages to get to the appropriate clause and sub-clause, "The clause I am talking about refers to setting up of Lokayuktas in states. This has been made mandatory, I wonder why. Can't states decide, why does the Centre decide for them?"

"The Sense of the House clearly says Lokayuktas need to be set up. You supported it."

Kittunni was not amused by Mookan's frequent interruptions. "Yes. We were part of it. But look at this, Clause No 9965434 draws its powers from Article 756347 which imposes Centre's powers on states. We would welcome it if it came from Article 8754545. Let states decide if they want Lokayuktas or not."

"Wasn't this law supposed to be about Lokayuktas?" Chinnu, the cricket said, "If our CM decides we don't need Lokayuktas, who do we go to to complain about Shambhu, who fleeced me when I wanted a driving licence."

"You got a driving licence, OK. Now that you have a Citizen's Charter, we won't even accept your applications, then what do you do?" The elephant hit back.

"That's not all, we were told Citizens' Charter will be part of Lokpal. The Sense of the House said so. Now it is a separate Bill," Kittunni argued, "Give me one reason why we should support this ineffective, useless, good-for-nothing, not-worth-the-paper-it's-printed-on, toothless, and every-adjective-I-can't-think-of Bill. We will fight the Bill tooth and nail. This Bill will be the last nail in the coffin of the JPA govt." Kittunni ended his speech, happy he had nailed the ruling party down.

"Next speaker, Chathunni Vakil."

"Friends. I heard our dear friend, and mind you I respect him a lot, but I can't but disagree with him on all the points that he listed and all the points he may have forgotten to list," Chathunni began with a flourish. It was a big occasion for him, Chathunni had headed the parliamentary committee that framed the Bill. His hair was jet black, his bandhgala matching black, he swayed from one corner of his desk to the other, surveying the audience to see if he had the desired effect on them.

"I will give a point-by-point answer to all queries the honourable Leader of the Opposition had. By the time I finish I am sure he would agree with me but may fail to do so in public. Such are the compulsions of politics."

"Good beginning," said Mallan, digging into another plate of beef fry and parotta, Junglistan's national food.

"My friends in the Opposition should first tell me what do they want Lokpal for. I would assume, to fight big-ticket corruption. If we are to bring the entire government machinery under Lokpal, we will have a panel headed by a retired chief justice of India investigating bribes taken by clerks and peons and drivers. Is it a joke? If it's a joke, it's a cruel joke."

"JJP hai, hai."

"Yes, which chief justice of India will want to investigate peons," wondered Naanappan, the deer.

"You seem to forget the clerks raided recently," Chinnu, the cricket said, "Crores were recovered from their homes. They were obviously benamis for someone."

"Sir, my friends in the Opposition also want to make the CBI redundant. Subsume it under Lokpal, they say," Chathunni continued, "They who divide, what do they know of nation building? Nation building is about building institutions. The CBI has served this nation for 70 years with distinction, now they want its powers curtailed. An institution that will be compared with the FBI once India becomes a superpower, whenever that happens. Or should I say the FBI of the future. As I said nation building is about institutions like the Lokpal. Today we are setting up a Lokpal, 10 years later, 20 years later, 30 years later, with the benefit of hindsight, we can, may be you will get the chance, build another one that will cover the shortcomings of Lokpal."

"We won't wait that long."

"Who said you are getting the chance, we are in no mood to give away the chair."

"We should be happy he didn't say the CBI is the modern-day Taj."

"CBI Taj nahin, usko band karo, laaj rakho."

'We have discovered a new slogan writer, who says these debates are useless?,' Kittunni promptly issued instructions.

"Moving on to Lokayuktas, what is the harm in Clause No 9965434. Why can't it come from Article 756347, if we can't use it why have it at all? Parliament has every right to enact a law for states. Please understand it's an obligation under a UN treaty to fight corruption. There is no escaping it." Chathunni's arguments did not cut ice with the Ghaas-Poos Party, they took to their feet instantly. The lawyer-MP did not elaborate further, leaving the work of winning over the regional party to his more experienced and crafty colleagues.

"We are reminded of the many scams that may have taken place, but I would like to ask you, who is clean in this industry. Ishamam mein sab nange hain. Have you forgotten the petrol pump scam, coffingate, Operation Westend?"

"Shame, shame."

"Point of Order. Point of order."

"What's the rule?"

"Rule No 627, 628, 629, 630."

"Why? What for?"

"If we can't talk about 2G, they can't talk about coffin gate and Operation Westend."

Chathunni relented without much persuasion, he had more ammo up his sleeve.

"I saw some Opposition argument about the Sense of House resolution promising a Citizen's Charter. Where did we promise a citizen's rights charter under Lokpal Bill? Nowhere in the Sense of the House," Chathunni got ready to land his knockout punch, "Let me tell you, you haven't done your home work right, you haven't read the Lokpal Bill right and you haven't read the Sense of the House right, you came to this debate like you were coming to a television debate. "

Chathunni had a triumphant look. He held out the Sense of the House resolution for everyone to see.

"Sometimes we all ignore things that may seem unimportant. This time you have ignored a punctuation mark. The innocent, ubiquitous, silent, harmless, useless - semicolon," Chathunni announced and paused for a while, letting the magnitude of his statement sink in, "Yes the semicolon, it has a full stop on top and a comma below, let me explain it to you if you don't know, we use it to separate items on a list. Look closer and you will see the three promises we made were separated by a semicolon which means we promised to bring only Lokayuktas under Lokpal."

Everyone in the House started searching for the relevant clause, some wanted to know if Chathunni had got the better of Kittunni, some wanted to know what a semicolon looked like, some called up secretaries to look for semicolons in their pay letter, some asked theirs to put more semicolons in their drafts.

"You are lying, you are quoting the wrong Sense of the House," Kittunni thundered.

"No, I am not."

"Shame, shame."

"There is no semicolon in the Sense of the House I have."

"May be your printer ran out of ink."

Kittunni was crestfallen. A legal eagle who couldn't spot a semicolon was certain to be a butt of jokes.

"Friends, I won't waste any more time of yours. The Oppn has moved some 200 amendments, they have what, 50 seats in the Upper House? At that strike rate they should be sent to Australia. I plead with our Opposition friends to be constructive and back this Bill. We are creating history here, and we want you to be our partners." Chathunni finished his argument.

"What a debate," exclaimed Thathamma, the parrot.

"Looked like it happened in the House of Lords," remarked Kudiyan Paramu.

"Triumph of democracy," said Kovalan, the Gandhian monkey.

"Too good to believe," Ittooppu gave his take as he hurried through the orders.

In the House the fence-sitters, the ones who wait till the last moment before they swing either way, had taken over.

"Distance la moon-u moon-u

moon-u color-u white-u

white background night-u night-u

night-u color-u black-u."

"What is this?" Kittunni objected.

"White skin-u girl-u girl-u

girl-u heart-u black-u

eyes-u eyes-u meet-u meet-u

my future dark."

"This is waste of precious of time," Kachori Ram shouted.

"Whaa wat a change over maama

ok maama now tune change-u."

"What's this? Disgusting."

"Kaila glass

only English..

hand la glass

glass la scotch

eyes-u full-aa tear-u

empty life-u

girl-u come-u

life reverse gear-u

lovvu lovvu

oh my lovvu."

"Please come to the point."

"You showed me bov-u

cow-u cow-u holi cow-u

I want u here now-u

god I'm dying now-u

she is happy how-u

this song for soup boys-u

we don't have choice-u.

Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di?

Why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di?

"This house is adjourned sine die."

Ittooppu's clients were disappointed. The debate was heading for a thrilling finish, the television channels were constantly flashing numbers, which indicated a close finish.

"What a let-down!"

"It was not the House of Lords after all."

"Murder of democracy."

"The debate was too good to last."

"This is called Rajneeti," explained Market Vasu, "No one wants Lokpal."

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