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BJP slams PM's statement on Anna's arrest

BJP today tore into Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement over Anna Hazare's arrest saying government's restrictions on public protests were unheard of even during the British period. Is India moving towards sustained movement against corruption?

delhi Updated: Aug 17, 2011 19:32 IST

BJP on Wednesday tore into Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement over Anna Hazare's arrest saying UPA government's restrictions on public protests were unheard of even during the British period and demanded "bold decisions" to tackle corruption.

Terming the statement as "disappointing" and "not inspiring confidence", Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said in Rajya Sabha that the country was exasperated with the government and the level of corruption in UPA's rule and hence people were protesting in streets.

Jaitley said the problem with the government is there are too many lawyers advising the Prime Minister and nobody understands that political problems have to be solved politically and not by police.

"Do you even recollect from British regime when these kinds of restrictions were imposed on freedom fighters and cannot impose such unnecessary conditions," Jaitley said denouncing the 22 restrictions by the Delhi police on Hazare's protest fast.

The BJP leader was critical of conditions like limiting the number of people attending the protest, its duration and the number of vehicles at the protest site.

"Is Congress party willing to give a guarantee that they will not hold a protest having more than 5,000 people in future?" Jaitley asked.

He said the advisors of the government failed to realise the magnitude of the issue and overwhelming support for Hazare and hence the Prime Minister now has to "hide behind the Delhi Police Commissioner" for the decisions related to Hazare's arrest.

Accusing the government of "unleashing a new political idiom" against those fighting corruption, Jaitley said "political spokesmen are being used literally as hitmen."

"Is that the level to which you have brought the level of the political discourse. Smugness, which has become a character of this government, Arrogance, which has become a character of this government - is not the way to fight corruption," he said.

Jaitley said it was the government's advisors and agencies which let it down. "Your advisors let you down. Your agencies let you down... You are now in a trap," he said.

The Prime Minister, Jaitley said, was trying to build a thesis that Hazare's protest was some sort of a confrontation between Parliament and civil society but the Opposition rejects it.

"Text of your statement is that...there is a confrontation between Parliament and civil society. We are refusing to bite this bit. This is not a confrontation between civil society and Parliament of India. We refuse to accept this agenda," he said.

Jaitley said the Prime Minister' statement has left him wondering "who runs and who rules the country" and added that the statement that it was Delhi Police, which took decisions like arresting Hazare, gives an impression that the political authority of the country was hiding behind some men in uniform.

"It is time for the Prime Minister and the political leadership of India to really stand up and take bold decision. He must go to root of the issue as to why such a loss of faith and confidence has taken place in his government," he said.

Jaitley said the most defining moment on the Independence Day was not the Prime Minister hoisting flag at the Red Fort but thousands of people voluntarily gathering to pray with Anna Hazare at Rajghat while his arrest became the defining moment next day.

"Why this did not happen in past....People of India are exasperated with corruption. They are exasperated with this government and the political leadership of the day," he said alleging that the UPA government did not offer any solution to the menace but was engaged only in "cover-ups".

Jaitley said the government only resorted to repeated phrases when "monumental scams" like CWG and in Telecom and National Highway kept on taking place.

"You pick up any infrastructure decision, you find decisions being taken for collateral purposes," he said accusing the government of living in state of "denial" on these issues and taking action only when "coerced" to do so by the courts and the Opposition.

"Why to blame the youths (on streets), when even the Vote of Confidence in Parliament is vitiated by corruption," he posed, asking the government to treat the Hazare issue as a "wake up call".

"Unless we put our house in order and the government leads us in putting the house in order, people of the country are becoming restless," he said.

Noting that nobody is disputing Parliament's right to frame the laws, the BJP leader said the question is whether the government has the willpower to fight corruption.

Jaitley also slammed Singh's Independence Day speech in which he had said that there was no "magic wand" to root out corruption.

Stressing that a Prime Minister can never be helpless in fighting corruption, the BJP leader asked the government to develop a political will to fight the menace. "You don't need magic wand. You don't need to perform magic. All you need is a political will," he said.

Jaitley said the civil society was not saying that Parliament will not make laws but stressing that it has a right to put across its views.

"Any citizen or a group in the country has a right to campaign for or crusade for his views. As part of it, they have a right to protest and dissent. It is this right that the government is trying to crush," Jaitley said.

Finding fault with the government's handling of the matter, Jaitely said the government did not heed to even the advice of the civil society to involve the Opposition in the process of drafting of lokpal bill.

"You first involved them in the Drafting Committee...led them up to the garden path and then dumped," he said.

Accusing the government of finally coming out with a bill for "government-appointed lokpal," Jaitley said, "obviously the bill will not inspire confidence in them (civil society)."

He said the issue today is how the government has handled a political crisis. "Has the government lost all statecraft to handle a political crisis," Jaitley wondered.

Stating that Hazare and his team have a track record of holding peaceful protests, he demanded they be freed and allowed to hold peaceful protests.

Criticising the government for invoking CrPC provisions against Team Hazare, Jaitley said, if you do, it leads to the Prime Minister hiding behind the Police Commissioner and saying that the police chief and not he took the step.

V Maitreyan (AIADMK) targeted Manmohan Singh stating, "Mr clean Prime Minister is getting dirtier day by day". He said there are no takers for Singh's assurance that he is taking steps to fight corruption.

He said the country has witnessed several scams, including 2G spectrum scandal but the Prime Minister was earlier in "denial mode", later in the "switch off mode" and now in the "silent mode".

Maitreyan said that opinion of India is that the Manmohan Singh government is on way out. He reminded the House of the Emergency days, which was imposed in June 1975 and how the government was voted out in March 1977.

However, Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said while every citizen has a right to protest, government has certain duties and Parliament certain powers. He said the government was trying to be accommodative when it sent ministers to receive Ramdev at the airport.

He said his party too has certain issues on the Lok Pal bill. DMK also has a view that the Prime Minister should be brought under the ambit of the lokpal bill, but this would be presented before the Standing Committee which is a "mini-Parliament" with representatives from different parties.

He said Hazare should have waited till report of the Standing Committee on the bill. "Hazare should have patience," he said.

D Raja (CPI) said he "disapproved and condemned" Hazare's arrest and demanded his release without conditions.

He asked as to who authorised the government to form a joint drafting committee on the lokpal bill (with civil society) and said it seemed as if the government had outsourced the drafting of the bill. By doing this, the government has put its executive to shame, he added.

Raja said while legislations are not made at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Ground, there is a public pressure which the government will have to acknowledge and bring a strong lokpal bill.

The Government is suffering from loss of confidence and credibility, he said.

Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) said the government has lost its ability to govern and run democracy. With age, the Congress party has become "senile" instead of wise, he remarked.

He said "corruption is born out of the womb of the Congress party and the mother will not kill her child." No action has been taken on scams erupting one after the other, he said.

While the Prime Minister admits that Hazare has good intentions, party spokespersons describe him as tool in the hands of fascists and Maoists. Things have come to such a pass that "honest people are considered fools and impractical."

Brinda Karat (CPI-M) said Hazare's arrest was a "blatant assault on democratic rights of citizens." She said the Prime Minister's statement was adding to the "fairy tale" of the home minister, who said it was the Delhi Police which was acting on its own.

"The Government is browbeating Hazare and ...the Prime Minister's statement is insensitive to assault on the civil society," she said and accused the government of "selective amnesia".

She said this government was "captive to corporates", but sent civil society to jail.

Karat said after being tough with the civil society, the government changed tactics once "Prince Charming" came and media was fed that the Congress and the government would no more use abusive language for Hazare.

Karat asked the government to "stop this charade...don't use the shoulders of Parliament to shoot the people of the country."

She said scams are still unfolding in areas like K G Gas Basin. Karat said even in the Congress Party, there are many who are dismayed. She mentioned the name of Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was present in the House, in this regard.

She demanded release of Hazare "unconditionally" and said the government should not divide the civil society and different standards should not be used for the National Advisory Council and the others.

Karat also wanted the Prime Minister to spell out whom he referred to when he talked about forces out to stall the country's growth.

Pyarimohan Mohapatra (BJD) said the Prime Minister is not being allowed to act. "When will the PM start acting as PM... if he is not able to act, he should go," he said, adding that his responsibility seems to have been taken over by all and sundry.

He said right to dissent has to be respected and the middle class people are tired of corruption. He warned that once this disillusionment reaches the grassroots there could be bigger problems.

Mohapatra tried to draw a parallel between the Prime Minister and cricket team of MS Dhoni. He said Dhoni has one more match left in England. Likewise, the Prime Minister has one more chance.

He also wanted to know what forces were seeking to come in the way of country's growth.

First Published: Aug 17, 2011 13:02 IST