Team Anna meets Bardhan, Nitish and Lalu
After Team Anna, it is now the Opposition parties that are bringing pressure on the UPA government on the Lokpal Bill ahead of a proposed all-party meeting.
Both Bihar Chief Minister and senior Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar and CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan on Thursday objected to the Union government's approach in reaching out to Chief Ministers and political parties on rooting out corruption. Both of them said their parties were yet to decide on participation in the all-party meeting.
These leaders reacted on the proposed legislation after separate meetings with social activist Anna Hazare and his team members who are in the midst of a campaign to convey their version of the Lokpal Bill to leaders of political parties.
Team Anna also called on the former Union Minister and RJD chief, Lalu Prasad. Other members of the team were Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi.
Mr. Hazare's meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not materialise on Thursday and has reportedly been posted for July 2, just ahead of the all-party meeting. Mr. Hazare is likely to meet the BJP top brass on Friday.
Team Anna has already discussed its Jan Lokpal Bill with CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav and RLD chief Ajit Singh on Wednesday.
Mr. Kumar, who received a pat on his back from Mr. Hazare for already putting in place most of the initiatives proposed by his team, said the UPA government should present its draft on the Lokpal Bill before seeking the opinion of parties for which it had convened the July 3 all-party meeting.
The Bihar Chief Minister expressed his displeasure over the questionnaire-like letter, which Union Finance Minister and chairman of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill Pranab Mukherjee had sent to Chief Ministers and political parties seeking their opinion.
Mr. Kumar said he didn't feel comfortable now with the government sending two drafts and demanded that it make its stand clear before seeking the opinion of the other parties.
Mr. Bardhan too said he was not sure which draft the government would withdraw in Parliament and warned “there will be trouble” if it came up with a bogus draft.
He expressed the hope that the government would come up with an effective law with the teeth to fight corruption.
The CPI general secretary, however, said his party was still to decide on participating in the all-party meeting. A decision would be taken only after a discussion within the party.
Besides Mr. Bardhan, D. Raja and Atul Kumar Anjan were present when Team Anna briefed the CPI leadership on its draft. Describing the experience as good and enlightening, Mr. Bardhan said the points raised by the civil society members would be discussed within the party.
The Chief Minister was equally cautious about his party's participation in the all-party meeting, saying a decision would be taken only after a discussion within the party and with his allies.
Lokayukta for Bihar?
Mr. Kumar called for comprehensive legislation and a strong Lokpal to eradicate corruption. He expressed willingness to set up a Lokayukta in Bihar and invited Mr. Hazare and his team for a discussion in this regard.
The Chief Minister lashed out at the UPA government for the manner in which it handled the civil society members in a “controlled, laboratory-like fashion” and said there was a need to engage them fruitfully.