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'Sarkari Lokpal knocks out govt's credibility'

In the first clear show of support for Anna Hazare, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley asked the government to drop the idea of a “sarkari lokpal”. Shekhar Iyer reports.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2011 11:25 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times

In the first clear show of support for Anna Hazare, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley asked the government to drop the idea of a “sarkari lokpal”, which he said is envisaged in the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha earlier this month.

Instead, he said, the government must talk to Anna’s team, political parties and others for a “strong, independent lokpal with a view to bring a maximum number of persons under its purview.”

Jaitley said he did not consider Hazare’s statement that “either accept my bill or go” as a serious issue.

Without directly endorsing Anna’s Jan Lokpal bill, Jaitley said the “way forward” for the government was to end the air of “mistrust and lack of credibility” and open a dialogue because “people have lost faith in the government’s commitment and approach to end corruption.”

For accountability of the judiciary, Jaitley favoured a national judicial commission, which would oversee the conduct of judges as well ensure their appointments in an independent manner.

What’s the way out of impasse?
The way forward is that the political establishment must go for genuine dialogue with an open mind. The crisis was created by the government. Huge scams, lack of action to book the guilty and then cover-ups knocked out its credibility totally. To cap it all, the government went for a sarkari lokpal, with least coverage. Hence, the first step is getting back credibility.

Wasn’t the government trying to do what it could?
It took Anna’s team up the garden path after their round one of agitation, without candidly telling them what’s possible and what’s not. Then the government came up with a sarkari lokpal bill and, when Anna went for round two against it, they went for police action instead of a political solution.

What is a workable formula?
I am not in a position to offer one but the meat of the matter is what (lokpal) is to be created. Unless it is credible and independent, and covers a maximum number of people, it will not work.

Doesn’t the BJP have an issue with Anna’s insistence on “my bill or else go”?
Not really. Civil society members are crusaders and they can take up tough position as part of their campaign and I fully hope India eventually gets a strong and credible lokpal. We cannot enter into conflicts with their campaign positions. These are transient situations.

Isn’t their threat to gherao MPs and ministers a threat to functioning of Parliament?
I would not prefer this form of protest. But as long as their protest is peaceful and non-coercive, I cannot object to their right to protest. Civil activists are insisting either the Prime Minister or Rahul Gandhi must talk to them.

What’s your view?
I do believe that the best communication is one that has the shortest distance directly between persons concerned.

Can the BJP help the government in this situation?
We can only advise the government to talk to them and others in a genuine manner and accept the idea of a strong lokpal and restore its credibility in the fight against corruption.

First Published: Aug 22, 2011 23:51 IST