New Delhi: Santosh Hegde, one of the five activists appointed to the committee that's handling India's new law against corruption, says he's contemplating quitting the panel.
Mr Hegde - who currently serves as the Lokayukta or ombudsman in Karnataka - says he's heading to Delhi to discuss this with other civil society activists on the Lokpal Bill committee.
Mr Hedge says he is frustrated with the "smear campaign" launched against the representatives of civil society who have been nominated to the drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill. He singled out Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh who has commented, "It is said he (Hegde) is so effective...he has been praised for being the most effective Lokayukta...but when he hasn't been able to check corruption in Karnataka...what sort of efficacy is this?"
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Hegde, clearly annoyed, responded, "I am the one who is fighting against the (Karnataka) government for two and a half years. If anybody says that I am protecting the ruling party in Karnataka, I will give it all up and run...the people in the UPA are now making all kinds of allegations, the General Secretaries are going on saying what they like. I want to send a message to the people that we are not political, we are not supporting any party, we joined together to draft the Lokpal Bill."
It took a hunger strike by 72-year-old Anna Hazare and the support of lakhs of Indians for these activists - united via the India Against Corruption campaign - to win the right to participate in the drafting of the Jan Lokpal Bill. The panel now includes five ministers and five activists. Mr Hazare nominated Shanti Bhushan, former Law Minister, to be the co-chairman.
Since the committee was announced, the activists have seen their credibility questioned both directly - by politicians like Digvijaya Singh - and indirectly. A CD sent anonymously to media houses last week contains a conversation that has Mr Bhushan stating that a judge can be bribed for four crores. Mr Bhushan has said the CD is doctored; so have two forensic labs that he employed. However, a report from a government forensic lab said the opposite today.
Other India Against Corruption campaigners like Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi today said that they have appealed to Mr Bhushan not to resign from the committee.