Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge today wrote to the government for the seventh time, rejecting the offer to be a “Special Invitee” for the selection of the Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman. The government had reached out to Mr Kharge after the Supreme Court gave it 10 days to pick the dates on which the selection committee would meet to appoint a Lokpal.
The selection committee was expected to meet today to begin the process of choosing a candidate.
“A ‘Special Invitee’ would not have any rights of participation in the process of selection of the Lokpal and I cannot accept the Opposition being made voiceless in a critical matter,” Mallikarjun Kharge wrote in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Kharge’s non-inclusion in the panel as the leader of the opposition or the leader of the largest opposition party, has been a matter of controversy. The leader has alleged that the government has been using his refusal to attend the selection committee meeting as an excuse for not appointing a Lokpal over the last five years.
The Congress, which won only 44 seats in the last Lok Sabha Election, had failed to make the cut for the designation of the “Leader of the Opposition. Winning a minimum 10 per cent of the 543 seats is necessary for that. This has triggered a technical problem in the composition of critical panels that are to pick candidates of posts like the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation or the Lokpal.
During the last hearing, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had pointed out the discrepancy, saying “for selecting CBI Director there is an amendment to include the leader of largest opposition party but for Lokpal there is none and he (Mallikarjun Kharge) has been called as a special invitee… That’s his grievance.”
Mr Kharge has turned down the government six times since February last year, objecting to the “Special invitee” designation.
In his letter to PM Modi yesterday, the Congress leader pointed out that “Since 2014, the government has not made any attempt to amend the relevant provisions of the Lokpal Act to include the Leader of the Single Largest Party in the Opposition to be a member of the Selection Committee.”