M A I N   N E W S

With Anna upping the ante, Opposition offers support
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, December 11
Unanimously supporting inclusion of the CBI’s anti-corruption wing, the Prime Minister and “Group C” employees under the Lokpal ambit, the BJP, the Left and other political parties that chose to accept the Team Anna’s invitation for a “debate” at Jantar Mantar, the venue of Anna Hazare’s token fast today, also advised members of Team Anna to leave specifics of the legislation to Parliament and be little flexible in 
their approach.

BJP’s Arun Jaitley, CPM’s Brinda Karat and JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav shared the stage with Anna for close to three hours as speaker after speaker ran down Abhishek Singhvi-led Parliamentary Standing Committee’s recommendation on the Lokpal Bill, 2011, in front of thousands of cheering supporters who had gathered at Jantar Mantar.

CPI’s AB Bardhan and D Raja also joined Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, TDP’s Yerran Naidu, Akali Dal’s SS Dhindsa and BJD’s Pinaki Mishra in berating the committee report.

The Congress and its allies, however, stayed away from the debate. Also missing from the scene of action were BSP and AIADMK representatives, something that should give some solace to the ruling party.

The group of seasoned politicians effectively used the forum, a decidedly impressive show of Anna’s growing mass appeal, to spell out the stand of their respective parties, while speaking in support of “a strong and effective Lokpal”.

Significantly, however, they stopped short of entering into a public debate when key Anna aide Arvind Kejriwal started taking up point by point discussion on contentious issues. “Leave them to Parliament,” counselled politicians as they promised to ensure that a “strong and independent” Lokpal Bill would be passed in Parliament. Sharad Yadav said his party would ensure that “not a comma or a full stop is changed” of the “Sense of the House” summed up by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in August after a debate on Lokpal in Parliament.

“Sentiments of the people will be kept foremost while framing the law,” Mishra assured, joining Sharad Yadav’s suggestion that the Bill should not be rushed through. “There must be sufficient debate in Parliament, even if it means extending the current session or calling a special session,” the JD(U) leader said.

Some also chose the occasion to counsel Anna and his team to be somewhat flexible in approach.

However, Bardhan’s advice that Team Anna should be flexible and not demand that Parliament passes their Jan Lokpal Bill in totality was met with boos from the audience. Samajwadi Party’s Ramgopal Yadav, who alleged that he knew people who waved the Tricolour from Hazare’s platform but indulged in corrupt practices in UP’s Etawah, was met with a similar fate.

Bardhan’s point that “all politicians are not corrupt...You cannot say that anyone that does not accept every comma or full stop of your Jan Lokpal Bill supports corruption,” was countered by Kejriwal, saying that “the devil was in the details”.

When Nikhil Dey, an activist from Aruna Roy’s NCPRI, took a stand different from Team Anna on Citizen’s Charter issue, crowds jeered at him, reinforcing the criticism that Anna supporters believed in the “my way or the highway” approach and were intolerant toward differences and dissent.

Incidentally, there was also a difference of opinion on bringing higher judiciary under the ombudsman. Raja was booed for speaking in English. “I’ll speak in Tamil if you want me to,” he said.

Anna and Cong strategy

Spelling another round of confrontation with the government, Anna asked the nation to join him in his fight to get a strong Lokpal. Ending his fast, he also threatened to intensify protests by courting arrest if the government failed to pass a law for a strong Lokpal in the country.

Significantly, Anna and his team have strategically decided to concentrate on party’s heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi. “Rahul Gandhi is responsible for the watered down version of the standing committee report by Singhvi,” maintained Anna.

Kejriwal described in details how the Congress, primarily party president Sonia Gandhi and her son, had chosen to turn down their invitation to participate in the debate.

The dedicated tirade against Rahul has Congress’ managers worried, there is no doubt. Congress, which watched the activities at Jantar Mantar from a safe distance, said the debate was premature since Parliament would discuss it soon.

“Anna Hazare is insulting Parliament. The Lokpal Bill cannot be made at Jantar Mantar,” said party spokesman Rashid Alvi and his colleagues later said.

Either the winter session should be extended or a special session should be called to discuss the Lokpal Bill. The sense of House passed by Parliament on Citizen’s Charter, lower bureaucracy under Lokpal and Lokayukta in the states should not be changed.  — Sharad Yadav, JD-U leader and NDA convener

Prime Minister should be brought under Lokpal. — Arun Jaitley, BJP leader

They (private companies) will have to be brought under Lokpal. They are looting the country like anything and they should be under the body.  — Brinda Karat, CPM Politburo member

Team Anna should not expect that each and every point it makes is accepted. They should show some flexibility.  — AB Bardhan, CPI general secretary





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