Pointing out that Anna Hazare’s continued hunger strike was “a dangerous precedent for a democracy”, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Friday took the debate on corruption a step ahead by suggesting that the lokpal should be a constitutional body accountable to Parliament, like the Election Commission.
Speaking during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, Gandhi thanked Hazare for articulating the people’s anger and disillusionment over corruption but said, “Individual dictates, no matter how well-intentioned, must not weaken the democratic process.”
“Today, the proposed law is against corruption. Tomorrow, the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the plurality of our society and democracy,” he said, as sister Priyanka watched from the visitor’s gallery.
“We speak of a statutory lokpal but our discussions cease at the point of its accountability to the people and the risk that it might itself become corrupt. Why not elevate the debate and fortify the lokpal by making it a constitutional body accountable to Parliament, like the Election Commission of India? I feel the time has come for us to seriously consider this idea,” he said.
Gandhi's "game-changing idea", as he later called it, got the support of social activist Medha Patkar.
But Team Anna called it a long-term solution. "You climb hills before you reach Mt Everest," said Kiran Bedi. "Lokpal is a tall hill that will take you to Everest."
The BJP, on its part, asked Gandhi to "stop giving sermons" and instead, persuade the PM to bring changes in the Lokpal Bill.
The opposition benches also protested that the MP had raised the issue during Zero Hour without prior notice, prompting an angry response from Congress members. Speaker Meira Kumar put an end to the sparring by saying she had allowed him to speak.
Sources said the surprise move to let Gandhi speak in the House was decided on Friday morning, to dispel the perception that he was deliberately keeping silent.
Apart from the lokpal, Gandhi said laws addressing issues such as government funding of elections and parties,
transparency in public procurement, proper regulation of sectors that fuel corruption (like land and mining), grievance redressal in public service delivery of old-age pensions and ration cards and continued tax reforms were needed to combat corruption.