The Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday did an about-turn on Team Anna's Jan Lokpal Bill after murmurs from within its ranks and directions from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which, after a recent three-day meeting in Ujjain, instructed all its front organisations to fully back Mr. Hazare's anti-corruption agitation.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari wrote a two-page letter to Mr. Hazare “deploring the changing stance of the government,” warning it against “any misadventure” and asserting that “the BJP has all along been with you in your crusade against corruption.” He also wrote: “The BJP accepts your draft Jan Lokpal Bill to be the basis for a strong and effective Lokpal….”
Mr. Gadkari said the government should not bother about “procedural wrangles” related to Parliament. It should “withdraw its Lokpal Bill forthwith.”
The letter was sent through Mr. Gadkari's political secretary Vinay Sahasrsabuddhe and BJP general secretary J. P. Nadda.
This was seen to be quite contrary to the party's stand expressed by leaders at press conferences over the last few days. While asserting Team Anna's right to dissent and agitate, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley on August 16 said the BJP's support to him was “limited” to this. He also said: “The last word on any Bill is that of Parliament [not civil society].”
At a separate press conference the same day, Mr. Gadkari had declared that the “BJP did not agree with Team Anna's demand that its bill be presented to Parliament.” He added, “It is the constitutional right of the ruling party to place its Bill before Parliament and then it is the right of all political parties to give their views and for Parliament to pass the Bill.”
Even on Thursday, as Mr. Gadkari was asserting “full support” to Team Anna, senior party leaders were privately briefing the media that they did not agree with Team Anna's bill as it gave phone tapping powers to the Lokpal; the BJP did not agree to an unwieldy institution looking at all corruption cases related to the lower bureaucracy; it wanted a separate accountability bill for the judiciary, which “should not be brought under the Lokpal,” unlike as suggested by Team Anna; and in fact it had many other disagreements as well.
Aruna Roy's Bill
A leader said, “the Aruna Roy Bill seems to be identical to our stand” in that it covers Prime Minister, keeps the judiciary in separate legislation and wants a separate body for tackling corruption in lower judiciary and has a better selection procedure for a Lokpal. However, asked why this should not be the “basis” of discussion in Parliament, the leader said, “Because the agitation is being led by Team Anna on the Jan Lokpal Bill.”
Late Thursday evening, the BJP held a core committee meeting where the brass were closeted for several hours to discuss the overall situation relating to the Team Anna-government standoff.