New Delhi: The appointment of India's first ever Lokpal has got off to a bad start with the BJP formally opposing the Prime Minister's choice of a jurist for the panel that will select the national anti-corruption ombudsman. The main opposition party is likely to take its protest to the President, say sources.
The BJP has recorded in writing its objection to the appointment of Supreme Court lawyer PP Rao as a member of the Lokpal selection committee, a decision that has reportedly been endorsed by the party's top leaders including Narendra Modi, its prime ministerial candidate.
At a meeting on Monday evening, Sushma Swaraj, who is leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, was reportedly outvoted 3-1 on the choice of Mr Rao, whom she described as a "Congress loyalist who had appeared in court for the ruling party several times."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Justice HL Dattu, the Supreme Court's number 3 judge who was been nominated by the Chief Justice of India to represent him on the panel, all voted in favour of Mr Rao.
"We're appointing the Lokpal after 40 years, let's do it with unanimity," Ms Swaraj reportedly told the Prime Minister, accusing him of scripting a repeat of the 2011 row over the appointment of PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner despite a corruption case against him. That appointment was struck down by the Supreme Court.
Sources said Ms Swaraj suggested the names of former attorney general K Parasaran, former solicitor general Harish Salve or even eminent jurist Fali Nariman.
The Lokpal Bill, passed by Parliament last December, provides that the national ombudsman and his team will be selected by a panel comprising the PM, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or his nominee and a fifth member, a jurist, picked by these four.
With the BJP planning to take its complaint against the fifth member to the highest level, a major political confrontation is brewing ahead of the national election, due by May.