The UPA government and the Opposition BJP are on the warpath over the constitution of the selection panel for the Lokpal, the top anti-corruption body proposed to be set up soon.
The confrontation over the choice of senior advocate P.P. Rao on the selection panel is set to reach the doorstep of President Pranab Mukherjee, with the BJP deciding to seek his intervention.
After a meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence late on Monday, Mr. Rao’s name was suggested for the position, but was opposed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, who is an ex-officio member of the selection committee.
Ms. Swaraj, who batted for former Attorney General K. Parasaran, said her choice was turned down by the Prime Minister, who proposed Mr. Rao’s name. The Prime Minister’s nominee was seconded by the Chief Justice of India’s nominee Justice H. L. Dattu and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
The BJP is objecting to Mr. Rao’s nomination as he is considered a “Congress loyalist.” The party said six names that were put forth at Monday’s meeting were decided without consensus.
“I had proposed the name of eminent jurist K. Parasaran, but the panel did not agree. I then suggested that the meeting should either be deferred or the panel should be extended to include more names or the name should be picked through consensus, not majority vote. None of these suggestions was accepted and it was put on record that the name was picked on a 3:1 majority,” Ms. Swaraj said here on Tuesday.
The BJP is insisting on a name that is perceived to be impartial and would be acceptable to all; it has suggested the names of former solicitor-general Harish Salve and jurist Soli Sorabjee.
“Choosing a member is the first step in the appointment of the Lokpal, which the country has been awaiting for the past 40 years. Such appointments should be done by unanimity and not majority. It seems the government wants to make it a captive body and pack it with loyalists,” she said, adding that the selection of Mr. Rao would set a wrong precedent.
Ms. Swaraj said she had sought an appointment with Mr. Mukherjee to brief him and seek his intervention. She said that as an elder statesman, she hoped Mr. Mukherjee would be able to counsel the government on the need for choosing a name unanimously.
Questioning the Prime Minister’s insistence on Mr. Rao over others — Fali Nariman, Mohan Gopal, Chandrashekhar Pillai and K. Parasaran — the BJP said the government’s intentions seemed unclear because they turned down Mr. Parasaran’s name which was on its own list.