‘Congress should review and take position on Jan Lokpal Bill'

With the Congress suffering a defeat in the Hisar by-election, social activist and member of Anna Hazare's core committee Medha Patkar on Monday said the campaign against corruption did have an impact on the poll result.

The seat was won by the Haryana Janhit Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance.

Ms. Patkar, however, emphasised that the movement was not targeting the Congress, but only making an appeal to the ruling coalition to bring a strong and effective Lokpal Bill.

She was speaking to journalists at Jantar Mantar here after addressing the people displaced in West Bengal and Jharkhand by the Damodar Valley Project. She later led a delegation to meet Water Resource Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Ms. Patkar urged the Congress to review its position and take a position on a strong and effective Lokpal. “Somebody should take the lead and take decisions to resolve issues. There are so many issues that need to be resolved…Kashmir, corruption, land acquisition…''

She said, “Not only is the Congress, it [establishing a strong Lokpal] a challenge to all political parties The positions taken by them will be exposed in the Standing Committee and Parliament, when the Bill is returned in the winter session.”

In this context, Ms. Patkar welcomed the reported initiative taken by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on apprising himself of Mr. Hazare's development work in his village Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra.

The reported move, coming as it does in the wake of the anti-Congress stance taken by Team Anna in Hisar by-election, may lead to breaking the ice with Mr. Hazare on the controversial Lokpal Bill. The Bill is now under scrutiny of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

“In the past, campaigns have called for boycott of elections. There was no such move in Hisar. Even now the [Congress-led] United Progressive Alliance should call Anna Hazare and his team for dialogue on the Jan Lokpal Bill and review its position.”

On team member Arvind Kejriwal's campaign in Uttar Pradesh that faces elections next year, Ms. Patkar said it was only “an appeal.” Mr. Hazare had declared that he would undertake an anti-corruption campaign in the State only after the winter session of Parliament when the amended Bill is likely to be tabled.

Denying any rift in Team Anna, she said Mr. Hazare had taken his vow of silence before Mr. Kejriwal met him, not after, as reported in the media.

On Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi's publicly expressed reservation on the ‘Right to Reject' and ‘Right to Recall' candidates, Ms. Patkar said the whole gamut of electoral reforms required a comprehensive debate. She rejected allegations of corruption against Mr. Hazare, saying he was an honest person and ready for any enquiry.