The Congress and the BJP are scurrying to position themselves ahead of Sunday’s all-party meeting on the anti-graft lokpal bill.
On Friday, the parties unsheathed their swords, accusing each other of not being sincere about the fight against corruption.
Since the BJP stopped short of spelling out its stand on issues, such as bringing the PM and higher judiciary under the lokpal — despite supporting Anna Hazare — the Congress seized the opportunity and dared the BJP to come out in the open.
“Are they (BJP) not the only party without a stand on the lokpal bill? They have no stand on either the government’s or civil society’s draft,” said party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.
The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “We don’t know yet what the government’s view is. Kapil Sibal said the ministers in the joint committee did not represent the government view. Let them first make their views clear.”
The Congress’ answer was its first categorical response to the bill — opposing the suggestion that the PM and higher judiciary be covered by the lokpal.
The BJP said its stand would be made public after a meeting of the NDA on Saturday.
Prasad said there was no argument that there should be a strong lokpal, but his party had been waiting for the bill to be placed in Parliament, as “according to parliamentary procedures, the government moves the bill and the opposition responds to it”.
Meanwhile, a significant move on the eve of the all-party meeting will be the much-anticipated meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Hazare on Saturday.
On Friday, Hazare and his colleagues met the BJP brass, where his colleague, Arvind Kejriwal, made a detailed presentation on their version of the jan lokpal bill.
“We requested the BJP that when the bill comes up in Parliament, its top leaders should argue strongly for it and they agreed,” Hazare said.
But the BJP leadership conveyed to Hazare’s team that the party was not in favour of covering MPs under the bill. While MPs should be accountable, they should also be allowed to speak freely in Parliament without the fear of libel suits, it said.
Also, as part of the inspired campaign, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Kolkata: “When Anna Hazare was on fast, the CPM politburo and the BJP supported him. They thought it was an attack on the Congress and they could take political mileage out of it.”