While, naturally, the main target of attack on the larger issue of corruption over the last few months and the Lokpal Bill, specifically, in the last few days has been the ruling United Progressive Alliance, parties across the board are also aware the political class as a whole is under attack. They can no longer afford to ignore the mood of the nation.
Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Shanta Kumar — whose comments were posted on the party's website — demanded that a special session of Parliament be called to pass the Lokpal Bill as soon as it was ready. Party president Nitin Gadkari promised the BJP's support for the bill even before the start of the process of drafting, although a BJP spokesman said a day earlier that the party would wait to see the outcome of the drafting exercise.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said “bygones should be bygones… our energy should be spent on the draft of the new [Lokpal] bill and the agreement [between the government and Anna Hazare supporters] was to move towards a solution.” He added it was not the time for allegations and counter-allegations, but the time to find solutions.
Mr. Kumar's statement was more than candid when it referred to the failure of different political parties heading a series of governments at the Centre to pass legislation that could begin cleansing the system. “It was a complete failure of our political system that all parties, and even the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] could not take effective steps to curb corruption in our country and now the public has come forward to tackle the serious issue…” The reference was to the fact that the bill has been a subject of discussion in ruling parties over nearly four decades.
There was also the hint of discomfort from some politicians who felt the political class may have mounted a tiger it cannot easily dismount. While there were no two views on the need to tackle corruption, some described what happened at Jantar Mantar over the last few days as “the tyranny of the inelectable.” There were elements in the drama that unfolded that could lead to a situation in which political parties could lose their relevance and the parliamentary system itself would be weakened, they felt.
The first to voice fears over “fascist tactics” used by the Hazare supporters — although the cause they espoused was right — was Samajwadi Party spokesperson Mohan Singh. He and the former Minister, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, of the Rashtriya Janata Dal were one in questioning the constitutional propriety of trying to hijack legislative powers that rest solely with Parliament, of dictating terms to an elected government.
The BJP, of course, did not share the view that these were “fascist tactics.” The party's Nirmala Sitharaman said she smelt no danger to the democratic polity. And Mr. Kumar went to the extent of encouraging yoga teacher Baba Ramdev, who has admittedly contributed several lakhs of rupees to the party coffers, to “take a lead” in starting a campaign against black money, similar to the Lokpal Bill campaign of Anna Hazare.
Party leaders conceded that when the bill was readied for Parliament, there could be demands that the customary study of the bill by the relevant standing committee be done away with. Mr. Hazare, after all, has given legislators till August 15 to pass the bill. And if a standing committee is to look at it meaningfully, that may not be possible. That exercise is normally undertaken between sessions.
D. Raja of the Communist Party of India felt that political parties, after all, had not been bypassed as the bill, whatever shape it took, would have to be passed by Parliament before it became law. No group of people could take away the right of any MP to move an amendment or of Parliament to approve such an amendment.
While appreciative of the national mood to fight corruption, Mr. Raja was of the view that the BJP itself clearly had double standards, as did some Hazare supporters. “Is anyone going to undertake a fast-unto-death for the removal of Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who is facing corruption charges? Who will do that when Mr. Yeddyurappa has himself emerged as a strong supporter of Anna?”