Oppn backs Anna Hazare but counsels flexibility as well
The Opposition today spoke in unanimous voice when they urged the PM and lower bureaucracy be brought under lokpal's ambit but some also counselled Team Anna to be flexible and not expect every point raised by it to be accepted. Have your say: What will be the govt's next step? | Points of contention | Lokpal logjam | Bill of fights | Anna begins fastdelhi Updated: Dec 11, 2011 23:02 IST
The Opposition on Sunday spoke in unanimous voice as they urged the government to include the Prime Minister and lower bureaucracy under the ambit of lokpal and asked for more autonomy for CBI. But some also counselled Team Anna to be flexible and not expect every point raised by it to be accepted.
While almost all the speakers were on the same page on most of issues raised by Hazare, CPI general secretary AB Bardhan warned Team Anna against branding as "corrupt" those people who disagree with its views and asked the activists to "listen to others".
Leaders of BJP, CPI(M), CPI, JD(U), Akali Dal, TDP and BJD participated in the public debate on lokpal bill at Jantar Mantar where Hazare was sitting on a one-day dharna protesting against Parliamentary Standing Committee report on lokpal bill.
No representative of Congress was present.
Most of the leaders concurred with Hazare's demands for inclusion of Prime Minister, lower bureaucracy and CBI's anti-corruption wing under lokpal but they did not favour bringing higher judiciary under the ombudsman and argued for a separate mechanism to check corruption in it.
Bardhan, however, said, "Team Anna should not expect that each and every point it makes is accepted. They should show some flexibility."
"They should not think that the entire wisdom of the world is with 9-10 people. There is no dearth of scholars in a country of 120 crore. Team Anna should also listen to others and have patience to listen to others," he said.
Samajwadi Party's Ramgopal Yadav also echoed similar views, alleging he has come across people who wave the tricolour from Hazare's platform and indulge in corrupt practices in UP's Etawah.
Accusing the Parliamentary Standing Committee of not honouring Parliament's resolution on lokpal, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said there were no two opinions about having a strong lokpal bill.
"We demand everybody who is in the government should come under the purview of lokpal. We oppose the Prime Minister's non-inclusion in the lokpal bill," he said.
"We are of the view that the lokpal should have a search committee of its own and people with impeccable integrity should be its members and they should select. It is very important to take the CBI out of the government's hands. It is being misused by the Government. The CBI director should not come under the government," he said.
However, he said, as far as judiciary is concerned, it should not come under lokpal.
"There should be a National Judicial Commission," Jaitley said.
"The very basic principles of having a strong lokpal should not be tampered with. Including lower bureaucracy and citizens' charter in lokpal was the sense of the house. We can differ on mechanism but not on the basic principle," he said.
"It is breaking the promise you had given to the nation, to Parliament," he said.
Bardhan said it was unfair to keep the Prime Minister out of the lokpal ambit.
"The Prime Minister is also a minister of many ministries and he is responsible for taking decisions. If the Prime Minister is not brought under the lokpal, then who will take care of the corruption in the ministries. The investigation has to be done," he said.
Alleging that CBI is being misused by the government which if it "wants to wean away a chief minister, uses CBI", he said, "This cannot keep on happening and anti- corruption wing of the CBI brought should be made answerable to lokpal."
"Corruption in judiciary is a very sad state of affairs and we are of the opinion that judiciary should not be brought under lokpal. The Constitution has given a special place for judiciary and that should not be disturbed. We demand that a Judical Accountability Bill has to be brought and passed," he said.
CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat wanted big corporate houses to be brought under lokpal.
"They (private companies) will have to brought under lokpal. They are looting the country like anything and they will be under the body," she said.
Contending that the Prime Minister should be brought under lokpal, she also batted for MPs to be under the ombudsman's ambit.
"Many of my colleagues here may disagree with me but we are of the opinion that MPs should also be under lokpal," she said.
"Why Group-C employees are not brought under lokpal. We want to know. Parties keep talking about national security being affected if the Prime Minister is brought under lokpal. There are a lot of defence deals where corruption has taken place," she said.
Strongly backing Anna, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav said his party will ensure that "not a comma or a full stop will be changed" of the 'Sense of the House' summed up by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in August after the debate on lokpal in Parliament.
Terming "political use" of CBI as "very dangerous", he pitched for an autonomous and independent CBI. He pressed for extending the winter session of Parliament or call a special session to pass lokpal bill.
Hazare began his fast at around 10:15am at Jantar Mantar, the protest hotspot in the capital, surrounded by a number of supporters who waved the tricolour, sporadically shouting slogans like Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki jai.
"My fast has begun. I will not speak much now," he told his supporters.
Clad in his trade-mark white kurta and Gandhi cap, Hazare was received at the protest venue with a thunderous applause and sloganeering by his supporters who had gathered at the venue braving the morning chill.
Along with Hazare, prominent members of Team Anna like Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Kumar Vishwas also joined the fast.
Before heading to Jantar Mantar, Hazare went to Rajghat and spend around 30 minutes meditating there.
"I am fine and healthy," he told reporters.
This is Hazare's third protest on the issue and second at Jantar Mantar.
The first one, which was a five-day fast from April 5 at Jantar Mantar, had drawn huge crowds. The government had then set up a joint committee comprising official representatives and activists to draft the lokpal bill.
The 74-year-old activist, who had gone on his second fast that lasted 13 days at Ramlila Maidan in August on the same issue, has been demanding bringing lower bureaucracy within the ambit of the lokpal besides provisions for Citizen's Charter and setting up of Lokayuktas under a central law. The government as well as Standing Committee have rejected it.
Hazare has also threatened to go on an indefinite fast from December 27 at Ramlila Maidan if a strong lokpal bill is not passed in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament.
Hazare has raised his decibel on the issue, accusing Rahul Gandhi for being behind the "watered-down" proposals of Parliamentary Standing Committee on the lokpal bill.
He had alleged on Saturday that the government has "cheated" the entire country and that he will campaign against the UPA in five poll-bound states and continue it till the next Lok Sabha elections.
Hazare has also warned the government that if a strong lokpal bill is not passed in the ongoing winter session of Parliament, he will sit on an indefinite fast from December 27 at Ramlila Maidan.
While he has accused the Standing Committee on lokpal of "fooling" people on the issue, his supporters have questioned its credibility claiming that only 12 of the 30 MPs supported its proposals which will not help in fighting graft.
Addressing the supporters ahead of the commencement of today's fast, activist Kiran Bedi said that people who had gathered there would pray that the government gets "good sense" to make "amends" on the lokpal issue.
"The lokpal does not have investigative powers. The government has given nothing substantial for lokpal and at the same time taken away the powers of CBI. We did not ask for this," she said.
At Jantar Mantar, activists sang, beat drums, waved flags and shouted slogans as people in large numbers joined the gathering.
What the parties said: Bring companies under lokpal: CPI-M | BJP wants PM, CBI and lower bureaucracy under lokpal | Don't be rigid on Jan Lokpal bill, Bardhan to civil society | Call special session to discuss lokpal: Sharad Yadav | Politicians to blame for Parliament paralysis: BJD