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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Ramlila Maidan to Delhi assembly, jan lokpal bill fails the first hurdle

Nivedita Khandekar, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 14, 2014
First Published: 22:14 IST(14/2/2014) | Last Updated: 12:30 IST(15/2/2014)

From an idea that changed the course of politics in the country to what seemed a failed, feeble attempt to turn it into a law, life has come a full short circle for jan lokpal -- the overarching anti-graft ombudsman -- and one of its staunchest proponents, Arvind Kejriwal.

It all started in September-October 2010 when Kejriwal gathered a bunch of enthusiasts under the umbrella of India Against Corruption (IAC) to demand a strong jan lokpal bill from the Centre.

After a not-so-publicised rally at Jantar Mantar in November 2010 and another at Ramlila Maidan in January 2011, the term IAC gained currency. The group chose veteran anti-graft activist Anna Hazare as its face, who wrote to the Prime Minister demanding a strong jan lokpal bill. The IAC had then termed the draft bill being floated by the Centre as very weak.

Read: Arvind Kejriwal, the citizen-activist who became chief minister

"April 5, 2011 changed the discourse of public participation in protests against the Centre. Jantar Mantar, the venue of Hazare's five-day fast, drew massive crowds that was only accentuated due to non-stop media attention," said an AAP leader, who had been part of the movement from day one.

Kejriwal led a successful negotiation with the Centre and IAC members were taken on board the drafting committee of the jan lokpal bill by the Centre. But when things soured, the IAC hit the streets again.

Read: AAP hopes to hard-sell 'sacrifice' in run-up to Lok Sabha polls

The crowds returned to Ramlila Maidan again on August 2011, where Hazare ended his 13-day fast after an assurance by the prime minister himself that Parliament will take up the bill in right earnest.

As things unfolded, the 2011 winter session of Parliament failed to pass the 'Lokpal Bill' as the Centre called it and an MP even tore the copy of the legislation in the house.

The year 2012 started with sporadic protests and meetings for demanding the jan lokpal bill. But mid-way through the year, the IAC was split vertically over Kejriwal going political. With the birth of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Hazare and Kiran Bedi went their separate way.

Read: Kejriwal hits and runs, pulls plug on own govt after failing to table jan lokpal bill

The party was formally launched in November 2012.

Jan Lokpal was the first thing on the AAP's agenda ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections 2013.

The rookie party surprised naysayers and pundits with an incredible debut in the Assembly, winning 28 seats -- the second highest after BJP (32). After the BJP refused to form the government, the Congress offered support to AAP, which the Kejriwal-led party accepted on an 18-point programme.

Read: For Kejriwal & Co, it is just the exit they had scripted

But there were still differences over the procedure that AAP had planned to follow to pass the Bill into a law in the Assembly.

"The political affairs committee (PAC) had last week pledged unconditional support to the AAP government, making it clear that there could be no compromise over the Jan Lokpal. It supported the decision to sacrifice the government for the anti-graft law," said a PAC member.

On Wednesday, before announcing his decision to quit, formally to his supporters, chief minister Kejriwal repeated before the Assembly what he told to television channel a couple of days back. "I am ready to sacrifice the CM's chair a thousand times for the jan lokpal bill."

Full Coverage: Arvind Kejriwal, a common man in politics

HT asks the following questions to understand the political impact of Kejriwal's decision to quit as Delhi CM.









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