On Thursday, anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare received a mixed response to requests for meetings with political leaders as part of his campaign for a strong lokayukta in the state.
While Sena chief Bal Thackeray refused to meet him, he got the cold shoulder from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray extended support, and Hazare in turn praised him for holding examinations to select candidates during the February 2011 civic polls. The BJP supported him as well.
During his meeting with Hazare, Chavan refused to set any deadline for enacting the Lokayukta bill in the state, saying the government would take a decision only after the Centre spells out its stance on the bill.
“We broadly agree with Hazare that the law needs to be strengthened. The state’s view has been that ideally if the lokpal bill included the lokayukta in it, we would adopt it. I have also written to Centre that they should enact a model lokayukta law, which we can then adopt. If the Centre says no on both these counts, then we will go ahead with our law,’’ said Chavan.
He said that Hazare had given him a draft of the Jan Lokayukta law, the second such draft, which the state would examine. Chavan also said Hazare’s tour was to create general awareness and did not seem targeted against his party or any one political party.
While Chavan was diplomatic, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray chose not to meet Hazare. Though no reason was given, last week Thackeray had criticised the manner in which Team Anna was functioning. Thackeray, in his newspaper Saamna, had even gone to the extent of questioning the commitment of Hazare’s associates to fight corruption. “We are not keen to join Anna’s agitation and we did not even offer support for the lokpal bill in the parliament,” said a Sena leader who did not wish to be identified. He added that Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray was not present in the city.
Thackeray’s nephew and MNS President Raj Thackeray welcomed the activist. “Raj Thackeray has supported my stance for a strong Lokayukta law,” said Hazare, after meeting Raj at the latter’s Dadar residence. He also had a few words of praise for Raj. “I was happy with the manner in which he conducted examinations to select his candidates,” said Hazare. Raj had conducted both written exams and interviews of all the candidates who wished to contest the municipal polls held early this year.
Hazare however played down Bal Thackeray’s refusal to meet him, saying he had requested the meeting for the cause of the people. “I am not meeting for any self interest and his refusal will not cause any loss to me,” said Hazare. “I am just seeking a strong lokayukta in the state as the people are fed up with corruption,” he added.
Later in the evening, Hazare met BJP leaders, including state president Sudhir Mungattiwar and leader of opposition in the legislative council, Vinod Tawde.
The BJP has appealed to the government to call a three-day special session of the legislature to get a new lokayukta bill cleared. “Any strong bill that will help rein in the rampant corruption at the Centre and the state is welcome,” Tawde said.
Dismissing reports that Hazare had written a letter to him, slamming him for inaction and failure to curb corruption, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said: “There was no such discussion today. I am fighting corruption at my level. I never said I have a magic wand. But, yes, we have ushered in a great deal of transparency in government processes by introducing technology.” He also slammed reports that he was slow in reacting to Hazare’s letters to meet him. “I don’t know who is spreading such news. After, I got a letter from Hazare, we fixed a date considering both our schedules.”
Raj Thackeray said that a strong anti-graft law was the need of the hour. “A strong Lokayukta is needed to curb corruption in this state,” said Raj. However, he was not happy with the manner in which Hazare was seeking support from top politicos of the city. “You cannot stop dacoity by meeting dacoits,” said Raj. However, he also wanted Hazare to concentrate on his home state (Maharashtra), which is facing the menace of drought and land-grabbing by the political mafia.