Discord, disruption, derailment — words which we have come to associate with parliamentary proceedings in recent times were replaced by debate, dissent, even dialogue, as the Rajya Sabha took up the issue of the Lokpal Bill on Thursday. The speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley and Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi rose magnificently above the largely fruitless cacophony of recent months, restoring in people a sense that the highest lawmaking body in the country is manned by people of political acuity and intellectual rigour. The points of difference between the two legal stalwarts were many but the cut and thrust of argument was marked by erudition and biting satire. The speeches that followed too, barring a few exceptions, were focused on the issue at hand, that of the provisions of the Lokpal Bill piloted by the government.
It is quite clear that the issues of the autonomy of the Central Bureau of Investigation, of the nature of federalism and whether an omnibus lokpal could be created at the cost of other institutions will take time to be resolved satisfactorily. But no one is in any doubt that all parties are agreed on the fact that a strong lokpal is now inevitable and desirable. Anna Hazare and his team may have held sway on the streets for a while in the past few months, but Thursday's soaring speeches have put the focus back where it should belong, on a Parliament in which people had begun losing faith. Without external pressures, it is now clear that the political establishment intends to work on a Bill which will be acceptable to all. The arguments made by Mr Jaitley and Mr Singhvi show that the resolution now hinges on the degree of give and take among all sides. Naturally, the two main political formations will be the most watched now, though the parties which have traditionally provided the checks and balances like the Left too have played their part in adequate measure as embodied by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury's learned intervention. The proceedings in Parliament brought back memories of a time when towering orators like Jawaharlal Nehru, Piloo Modi and later Atal Bihari Vajpayee added lustre to debates and discussions through their reasoned arguments and engaging wit and humour.
Beyond the oratory on the lokpal, of course, much work remains to be done before everyone is satisfied. The conduct of Parliament takes the sting out of the unsubstantiated allegations made by Team Anna of sabotage and subversion of its latest protest by the government. That members of the team are now resorting to personal attacks further undermines its position and suggests that it is suddenly bereft of a strategy to counter a political establishment which is behaving in a responsible manner once again and which has put decency and discourse back into democracy.