Leaders of the opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, on Saturday set the tone for a reasoned and mature debate in both Houses of the Parliament on the Lokpal issue, which ultimately resulted in unanimous resolutions for the consideration of key demands raised by Anna Hazare.
Initiating the debate on finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement, Swaraj said the debate provided a historic opportunity to the House to let the nation know that it would rise to the occasion in addressing a key challenge faced by the nation.
"Let us give this country an effective, strong, free and impartial Lokpal," she said. Swaraj slammed the government's handling of the entire issue of Hazare's arrest and his indefinite fast.
She also attacked Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's speech in the House on Thursday, and charged the government with delaying the debate by a day to facilitate Gandhi's speech. Swaraj also took a dig at Speaker Meira Kumar for having allowed the Congress leader to speak for 15 minutes.
Supporting the three key demands raised by Hazare, Swaraj said the government tried to browbeat civil society activists, but failed in its attempts.
In the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said the existing level of accountability standards in the country were not adequate, but the need for probity would have to be in consonance with the constitution. He said there was "considerable merit" in the three main demands raised by Anna Hazare and his team, but strongly opposed the clause in Hazare team's draft on giving Lokpal the powers to tap telephones.
"There is a suggestion that the authority (Lokpal) will be entitled to tapping phones. This is the area where I disagree seriously. Are we going to create institutions which are now entitled to start tapping phones of even the Prime Minister ?" Jaitley remarked.
On each of the three sticking points, Jaitley offered various options to the government on how these could be accepted. On whether the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in states could be set up through a single law, Jaitley referred to Article 252 of the Constitution as a possible solution.
On setting up the citizens charter for all the government departments to redress public grievances, Jaitley said, "It will be a good step to say that every department of the government has a charter."