Opposition blames Centre for weak Lokpal Bill; Congress MP admits UPA government failed to understand ground realities
Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday lambasted the government for bringing in a weak Lokpal Bill and demanded comprehensive measures to tackle corruption. They backed the ongoing movement led by social activist Anna Hazare that highlighted the common man's anger and disgust against the system.
Initiating a short-duration discussion on rampant corruption in the country, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley of the BJP criticised the government for mishandling the agitation led by Mr. Hazare and underestimating the anger among masses. Blaming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the delay in talks with Mr. Hazare and his team, he said: “They [civil society] have a right to protest and crusade, we must not curtail their right, nor should we say like a child we will not talk to you.”
“The enormity of protests is proportionate to the anger and the enormity of anger is proportionate to the corruption. The government has lost the moral battle since it wanted to control the appointment of the Lokpal,” Mr. Jaitley said and justified the proposals in the Jan Lokpal Bill for bringing the Prime Minister and the judiciary within its ambit, besides a robust public grievance redress mechanism.
Asking the government to have a “serious relook” at the “Sarkari Lokpal Bill,” Mr. Jaitley said: “If still there is no agreement, the will of Parliament will prevail…most of the proposals of civil society can be made compatible with the Constitution.”
Raising the issue of 2G scam, the BJP leader said the root causes of the corruption included discretionary powers in allocating state resources such as land, oil and natural gas, spectrum and mines.
“We have erred”
Admitting that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had failed to understand ground realities, Congress MP Satyavrat Chaturvedi said: “We have also committed mistakes. First, we said ‘no' to the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G scam and a whole [winter] session was wasted… after saying ‘no,' now it is heard that the government will also agree to bringing the Prime Minister within the Lokpal's ambit. We are away from ground realities and we have not been able to enhance the government's prestige among the people.”
Mr. Chaturvedi said he was ashamed when his party members issued derogatory statements against Mr. Hazare, but the activist should also respect and listen to the voice of others on the issue. “I appeal to Anna Hazare and others not to create an atmosphere where things go out of control.”
Disgust against graft
Pointing out that the nationwide mass agitation reflected the disgust among people against corruption, Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) said the country needed institutional reforms to tackle corruption. He blamed liberalisation and economic policies of the government that had created the fountainhead of corruption in crony capitalism.
Other Opposition parties and UPA partners too underlined the need for a stronger Lokpal Bill.