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Move an inch to walk a mile

india Updated: Aug 25, 2011 21:10 IST

Hindustan Times
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought to control the very damage that his government and fellow Congressmen had earlier wrought in their dealings with Anna Hazare and his associates.

It is understandable for Mr Hazare and his supporters to treat Mr Singh's offer of discussing all the various drafts of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament as a Trojan horse.

After all, if the government had not tabled a draft Bill that people even within the government now find to be toothless, things may not have come to such a pass. But it's better late than never and Mr Hazare should treat the PM's offer as bona fide if not for any other reason but because at this stage it would be politically suicidal for the government to go back on its word.

As a gesture of firming up this promise and making amends for past chicaneries, the government should make a written commitment as Mr Hazare has demanded as well as to pull its earlier draft out of the parliamentary select committee. There is no loss of ego or political brownie points here.

As there should be no loss of face for Mr Hazare and his associates for accepting Mr Singh's offer. For at stake here is coming up with the most effective law against statutory corruption with in-built safeguards against its abuse, not whose version of the Lokpal Bill makes it as law. This is neither a competition nor a battle of filing patents.

It is about bringing about a law that deters statutory corruption The Jan Lokpal Bill's chief architect Arvind Kejriwal may genuinely believe that his version of the Bill is the best one. In the light of the government draft still pending with the Parliament's Standing Committee, it certainly seems so.

But there are questions regarding the Jan Lokpal Bill that need to be resolved by reason and not by sheer faith. And there are other important voices, most notably that of Aruna Roy, one of the architects of the Right To Information Act, which need to be heard for the sole purpose of bringing about the best Lokpal Bill.

Mr Hazare has reacted to the prime minister's offer by demanding that Parliament start discussions on the citizen's charter, introducing lokayukta in every state, and including all levels of bureaucracy under the lokpal's purview, all key elements of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Essentially, these points will be included in the discussions that the PM has sought for in Parliament across party lines.

So both sides of the tussle are finally on the same page. Mr Hazare's campaign has undoubtedly brought the fate of a genuinely strong Lokpal Bill this far.

This is the time when he should drop a gear and give the government and the political class the elbow room required to do the very job that Mr Hazare and Co wanted them to do from the very beginning.