Four days ahead of a re-run of social activist Anna Hazare's hunger strike on the Lokpal issue, the Union government on Friday expressed its strong disapproval of such an “extreme” form of protest at a time when the draft of the Bill is being deliberated on by a Standing Committee of Parliament on which members of all political parties are represented.
“At this stage, an extra-parliamentary protest seems unjustified,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram told journalists at a briefing of the Group of Ministers on the Media, when he was asked how the government viewed Mr. Hazare's proposed agitation from August 16.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayansamy, who is also a member of the GoM, pointed out that parliamentary practice allowed people from different sections of society to give their views to the Standing Committee either in person or in writing. However, “The Bill is now the property of Parliament – it is for Parliament to decide [on the final shape of the Bill].”
Clearly, the government feels it is on a firmer footing now, and is unwilling any longer to buckle under the pressure of civil society groups. Mr. Chidambaram noted that while everybody had the right to protest, “the context and circumstances will decide whether the protest is right or not.” Mr. Hazare's first fast could perhaps be right, but not so now, as the government had introduced a Bill.
Asked whether the government could intervene in case Mr. Hazare's condition deteriorated after he went on fast, “Certainly, if anyone's life is in danger, the government has not only a duty, but a right to intervene.” He added quickly that the statement was a “general one;” not in the context of Mr. Hazare.
Asked why the government was delaying giving permission to Mr. Hazare to hold a fast, Mr. Chidambaram said it was for the Delhi Police Commissioner, who was examining the request, to take a decision.
To another query how the government would “tackle” the fast, Mr. Chidambaram said that as it was not a game of football, the government had no intention of “tackling or pushing anyone.”
On Team Anna's claim of 90 per cent support in Rahul Gandhi's constituency Amethi, for the Jan Lokpal Bill, he said he only wanted to repeat what Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said, “We are surprised it is not 100 per cent.”