Rahul Gandhi (C) during the discussion on Lokpal Bill in Lok Sabha in New Delhi. PTI Photo
The much-awaited Lokpal Bill was on Tuesday taken up for consideration by the Lok Sabha on a stormy note with the Opposition demanding its withdrawal contending it was full of deficiencies, even as the government asserted that it had sought to strike a fine balance. Meanwhile, amidst cheering supporters, Anna Hazare began his three-day fast in Mumbai today in protest against a "weak" Lokpal Bill.
Moving the Bill for consideration, minister for personnel V Narayanasamy asserted the supremacy of Parliament saying "we need to bow our heads to this House only and not before anyone else", apparently referring to Anna Hazare.
Narayanasamy contended that the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill had several unique features like confiscation of properties of any person believed to have committed an offence relating to corruption.
As the minister was speaking, RJD chief Lalu Prasad was on his feet claiming that the Lokpal Bill was an attack on the federal structure of the Constitution.
When Narayanasamy referred to setting up of Lokayuktas and lack of anti-corruption ombudsman in Gujarat, AIADMK and BJP members were on their feet shouting slogans against the government.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj dubbed the bill as full of deficiencies and wanted "the weak bill" to be sent back to the Parliamentary Standing Committee so as to make it "effective and strong".
"Accept our amendments or withdraw the bill... Send it back to standing committee for further discussion," she said while describing it as a "patently unconstitutional" legislation which the Opposition will not "tolerate".
Prasad also demanded withdrawal of the bill contending that it was brought in "haste under pressure" from Anna Hazare.
Relying to Sushma Swaraj, Union minister Kapil Sibal said that the BJP is not interested in passing the Lokpal Bill, rather it wants to use the non-passage of the bill to its advantage in the elections. Sibal said that the present bill placed by the government is a strong one and would deal effectively with corruption.
Sibal also urged Sushma to pass the present bill saying that the people won't forgive BJP if they didn't pass the bill.
In Mumbai, Hazare, who is suffering from a viral infection, arrived at the MMRDA grounds in Bandra Kurla Complex of suburban Mumbai along with his close aides Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia to a thunderous applause and slogans of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and 'Vande Matram'.
Hazare began his fast shouting slogans of 'Vande Matram' and 'inqilab zindabad'. The 74-year-old activist reached the venue after paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Juhu Beach while on his way in a rally, which took two-and-half hours to reach the ground, passing through Santacruz, Tulip Star Hotel, Mithibai College, SV Road, Vile Parle, Khar and Bandra Highway.
Hazare travelled in a decorated open truck from the guest house to MMRDA grounds waving tricolour and a number of people were seen waiting to greet him on the streets.
However, there was high drama on way as around 20 men blocked his convoy and showed him black flags. The convoy of Hazare, on way to Mahatma Gandhi's statue on Juhu beach, was briefly stopped by the protesters carrying black flags and national tricolour and shouting "Anna Hazare murdabad".
In Delhi, Lok Sabha started a discussion on the bill. However, Team Anna's protest elicited a lukewarm response with supporters blaming the winter chill and absence of Anna Hazare for the low turnout at Ramlila Maidan.
The protest relay fast in Delhi was scheduled to start at 10 am but it started only 90 minutes later as the crowd was not as huge as witnessed during the earlier agitation when Hazare was at the centre stage.
The leader of the protest in Delhi Shanti Bhushan himself came to the podium at 10:30 am though another Team Anna member and his son Prashant Bhushan was at the venue before explaining to media persons about the protest and the delayed start.
Hazare was supposed to sit on a fast in New Delhi but the venue was changed taking into consideration the weather in the capital. The activist is staging a three-day fast in Mumbai.
Prashant blamed the chilly and foggy weather for the low turnout in the morning.
"I am sure people will come here as well. It is a cold day, foggy day today. It will take sometime for people to turn up. They will come, don't worry," he said.
Activist Gopal Rai said winter and probably the absence of Hazare may be the reason for the low turnout but expressed hope that more people will come.
Explaining the need for protest, Prashant said the Bill in its present form is unacceptable. Protest will continue as well as jail bharo agitation, he added.
Team Anna raised the pitch on Monday by pointing out "four non-negotiable" demands for calling off their jail bharo agitation which included provision for an independent investigating agency for the anti-corruption ombudsman.