In the tense and serious atmosphere that prevailed in the Lok Sabha during Tuesday's debate on the Lokpal Bill, it was, not surprisingly, left to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad to provide some moments of laughter but with some grim content.
Mr. Prasad said he would rather walk out than be part of the process to bring in a draconian measure that would help send all MPs to the phansi ghar (gallows). “All MPs could end up in one jail or another,” he said, pointing out that an irregularity committed even by officials in implementation of the MPLADS could land the MPs in trouble.
“All of you are going to die,” he said dramatically. “Anyone can file a case and hound you, calling you chor [thief],” the RJD chief declared even as he said he would walk out, and “will not be a party” to this move.
Then, to the amusement of all, he turned to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and said he should be accepted as the first Lokpal for, “he is honest.” It will then be up to the Congress to choose or not choose another Prime Minister.
Mr. Prasad equated the proposed Lokpal to Draupadi. “The situation will be much worse as it will have nine husbands each pulling it in his direction.”
The RJD chief did not spare social activist Anna Hazare and sought to read out a letter purportedly written by him in which MPs were described as persons more dreadful than Pakistani terrorists.
Mr. Prasad said he (Hazare) would not be satisfied with the Bill in any case. “He will shift [his agitation] from here to there and from there to here.”
There was an international conspiracy to destroy the country in the name of fighting corruption, Mr. Prasad charged. “We need to root out corruption. But we have to be careful too.”
He said the Bill threatened the federal structure of the country and demeaned the bureaucracy — the backbone of the country. “The Army personnel, the IB and RAW personnel work for the protection of the country. Where are you taking the country?”
Mr. Prasad demanded the withdrawal of the Bill through a resolution and said it should be referred again to a standing committee. If not, the RJD would decide its own course of action, he warned.
JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh too batted for the bureaucracy. Mr. Yadav said they were the ones who had shaped the country's development. “Did you consult them before drafting the Bill? With one brush you have painted them all corrupt. None of them will now work. Will that benefit the country,” Mr. Yadav asked.
“I feel like breaking my head when I see this Bill. It also threatens the federal structure on the issue of Lokayuktas,” the JD(U) chief said.
The SP chief's main stress was on adoption of the amendments moved by the Opposition. It would benefit the government too, Mr. Singh said. He called upon the government to heed the caution sounded by the Opposition.
Mr. Singh said the Bill was too weak to root out corruption and the people were dissatisfied with it. The government had drafted a Bill that protected its interest and not the people's, he charged.