A day after meeting social activist Anna Hazare's team late in the night, the BJP on Friday took a political position almost in line with the Jan Lokpal draft of Hazare's team.
Under rules that entail voting (Rule 184 in Lok Sabha and Rule 168 in Rajya Sabha), leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley moved identical notices in the two Houses which were in line with Team Hazare's three conditions to end his fast .
The logic: this alone would reveal who is with Hazare's demand for a strong Lokpal and who is against it, rather than having a general seminar in the House.
However, the party left open a window of opportunity that an embattled government was quick to latch on to. For, it gave the government an alternative option: a statement by the Prime Minister or the leader of the House, followed by a discussion.
With the government accepting the latter option, the notices become irrelevant, but have made a political gesture showing the party's support to Hazare.
The BJP's latest position has evolved after a detailed meeting. The party has accepted the demand that the lower bureaucracy will be under Lokpal.
“There are two options here. One, that the lower bureaucracy, too, be included in Lokpal. The other, lower bureaucracy should be under Vigilance, but Lokpal be the appellate authority,” said Jaitley. The party also says that the Lokpal Bill can provide a framework for “setting up of Lokayuktas with similar powers in the states,” which is an attempt to incorporate Hazare's demand for Lokayuktas in all the states.
As for the third demand of the Hazare camp for the fast to be broken — a citizens' charter — the BJP supported it saying its MP and Bihar governments have such a law where penalties are imposed on officials failing to discharge duties in time.
Swaraj accused the government of rank insensitivity, saying it did not take the opposition into confidence.
“At 2.10pm, I got a call that Sandeep Dikshit would begin a discussion on Lokpal at 2.15pm. Such a serious matter and such a casual approach? What message are they sending?”
But there are misgivings among BJP MPs about Hazare's agitation, with many wary of the campaign's anti-politician tone. The party disagrees with the Jan Lokpal's idea that the ombudsman have the power to tap phones. BJP MPs have been particularly wary of the clause that MPs' conduct in Parliament be under Lokpal ambit.