All pain, little gain for Team Anna
New Delhi, August 28
After emerging as a true representative of the people's aspirations by securing Parliament’s nod on “key elements of the Jan Lokpal Bill”, the next item on Anna’s agenda is electoral reforms - the right to recall and right to reject.
Therefore, when Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said that the biggest achievement of the anti-corruption movement was that it united people cutting across all divides, he was right. An India Against Corruption (IAC) member added that this was just the "first" step and "the core committee will meet to strategise further plans."
But even as India erupts with impromptu celebrations, taking out victory marches and distributing sweets, the underlying doubt is whether our smart politicians really conceded anything substantial to Anna while providing him with “a reason” to end the fast.
Sources in Team Anna said that the Gandhian had never ended any agitation without anything substantial. However, the answer to the question as to what exactly did the government give up that calls for a celebration is “nothing significant”.
When Anna began his fast on August 16, he was adamant that his version of the Jan Lokpal Bill should be tabled in Parliament by August 31. But somewhere in between, the demands were diluted as the government successfully tapped the widening divide in Team Anna by sidelining hardliners Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. As a dehydrated and exhausted Anna sipped the much-deserved coconut water and honey, the fact is that even after 13 days, the Jan Lokpal Bill is far from becoming a reality.
Instead, it is the MPs who successfully managed a victory and must definitely be celebrating, though behind closed doors.
Even when Law Minister Salman Kursheed told a TV channel today that the government made no mistakes, he agreed that some positive things emerged from the agitation for example, the added knowledge of how to handle mass movements in the future.
The government learnt the hard way its mistake of undermining simmering anger of the people against the scourge of corruption, but the situation appears to be more or less where it was on the day Anna started his second fast.
All that the government has actually conceded is an “in principle” agreement on three provisions - citizen charter, lower bureaucracy to be under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism and establishment of Lokayuktas in the states - and to send the proceedings to the department-related Standing Committee for its perusal while formulating its recommendations for a Lokpal Bill.
This is exactly what Standing Committee Chairman Abhishek Singhvi has been canvassing from the day one - that the committee can consider provisions in the Jan Lokpal Bill and any other drafts that are presented to it during the course of discussions.
Neither did he nor the government give any guarantee that these provisions will definitely be incorporated in the Jan Lokpal draft, Bill or law, as an when these materialise. There is also no guarantee when the Bill would be passed. "But we have an in-principle agreement that these clauses will definitely be considered," insisted an IAC member.
However, many analysts believe that with so many added issues, the government may just have earned some extra time to hang on to the Bill even though Anna aides are determined to pursue their cause during the proceedings of the Standing Committee.
On their future plans, Bhushan said, “The focus will remain on the Lokpal Bill. We will keep the pressure so that all important provisions of Jan Lokpal Bill are included in the final Bill." But then Aruna Roy and Jaiprakash Narayan have also earned the same benefit, that too without fasting.
Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal today thanked PM Manmohan Singh and Parliament for the "grand victory of the people”.
Though a closer look shows that it was the government, united with an equally agreeable Opposition, which registered a considerable victory. Cutting across party lines, MPs united to save the parliamentary system for their future survival.
And in the end, the Delhi police should be accorded a word of praise for handling a potentially volatile situation well by not allowing any untoward incident that could have further embarrassed the government after some historic goof-ups in the beginning.