Lobbying cannot be an act of legitimacy Lobbying shouldn't be legalised in the country as it would be legalising an illegal enterprise.
Individuals play the role of a middleman on behalf of clients to get work done quickly, most of the time violating rules and not going through the normal channels.
They do so by offering monetary benefit to those who are entrusted with doing the job on behalf of the government, whether at the Centre or state level.
It is an absolute malpractice tantamount to violation of the law and bending of rules in exchange for monetary benefits.
This is generally done by the corporate houses to win contracts, outstripping competitors and crossing the barriers of normal judicious process of transparent governance.
We have seen a number of cases in the last few decades where nationalised banks had opened their chests to finance illegal speculative transactions in the stock market.
There were middlemen acting for brokers who benefitted illegally using their connections with higher-ups in the bank.
There have been occasions when in a bid to win contracts, the tendering process was sought to be manipulated in connivance with the authorities concerned.
The middlemen utilise their connections to benefit the corporates.
This lobbying and the role of middlemen have, in recent times, acquired more importance due to economic liberalisation.
Everybody knows there was a middleman in the Bofors payoff case. Middlemen have played havoc in many defence deals.
In the Harshad Mehta scandal, too, it is the middleman who arranged for the loan using dubious papers.
Therefore, lobbying cannot be an act of legitimacy.
The middleman plays the game in order to give unusual benefits to the clients.
Economic liberalisation has opened the doors for a heavy influx of middlemen in the corridors of power.
There can be no justification for legalising this practice.
If prostitution cannot be legalised, nor can lobbying.
For, lobbying is a kind of economic prostitution where a lobbyist sells his connections within society in exchange for money.
Member, Lok Sabha & CPI leader
Legalise it in a transparent manner The practice of lobbying is one of oldest international professions — call it public relations or anything involving a middleman. A lobbyist’s main job is to give desired results.
They maintain and manage an extensive network.
Lobbyists are being used not only by businessmen but by everybody, whether it is a politician or a diplomat.
The strongest lobbyist is the state, because the interests of public officials are as strong as the interests of the political party they come from.
The public official is not a lobbyist while he is the subject of a decision, but when other state institutions decide about his interests, he becomes the object of a decision.
Actually, several politicians come from influential enterprise groups.
So, there is no point waking up to this nexus as if it never existed.
In the good old days, it was relationships and negotiating tactics combined with small favours, but today it’s all about big money. Hence, lobbying is considered the other side of the coin of corruption.
It is believed that the corrupt ways of lobbying gets work done faster.
It is no longer about ‘influencing’ change but dictating change by way of cash in many cases.
Hence, cash, gifts or favours have become key negotiating weapons of a lobbyist.
The main cause of the current state is the non-existence of formal regulations and a low number of professional lobbyists.
Under the circumstances, we may legalise lobbyists just like share brokers or property dealers in a transparent manner and through legitimate means.
We can adopt our own model considering such practices worldwide, including the lobbying disclosure Act in the US.
Such legalisation should also contain some general conflict-of-interest provisions, including the one that public officials may not accept external employment or carry on business activities without permission, and regular asset declarations along with penalty clause.
They mandate a registry of all such groups and the money they spend to make their case. S K Agarwal
Vice Chairman, Transparency International
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