Lalu Prasad decried "outside" attempts to dictate terms to Parliament

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad on Saturday came out strongly in support of the supremacy of Parliament and Constitutional principles and lashed out at attempts being made from “outside” to dictate terms to Parliament.

Hailing Parliament as the sacred temple of democracy, Mr. Prasad asserted that any attempt to cause damage to this temple would not be allowed to be made.

He questioned the need for a debate on the Lokpal issue saying a Bill in this regard was already before a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

“Is this government not violating the supremacy of Parliament by discussing a matter that is before a Standing Committee,” he said, while participating in a marathon discussion in the Lok Sabha on Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement on issues relating to the setting up of the Lokpal.

In a speech laced with his characteristic rustic humour and wit, Mr. Prasad targeted those who were using derogatory language against political leaders and creating hatred for politicians and elected representatives of the people. Terming himself as a product of the JP movement and a keen student of political science, he did not spare the UPA government either, saying the government had made a mistake in first arresting Anna Hazare and then shifting him to jail.

Recalling the arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani during his “Rath Yatra” in Bihar, Mr. Prasad, who was then Chief Minister of Bihar said that the leader was shown due respect and kept in a guesthouse.

Lauded and egged on by MPs, who cut across party lines, to continue to speak on the issue, Mr. Prasad said MPs should work for the strengthening of democratic institutions in the country. He said proceedings of the House should be sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which was considering the Lokpal Bill.

Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav too stressed on the importance of Parliamentary supremacy. He wanted the Lokpal and Lokayuktas to be set up in the States simultaneously.

‘Maintain decorum'

Mr. Yadav criticised the remarks and gestures of film actor Om Puri and former police officer Kiran Bedi at Ramlila Maidan, saying people should maintain decorum.

From among the young members in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said that concern about corruption was not in Ramlila Maidan alone but that it was shared by all sections of the society and all citizens of the country.

“The concern is not in Ramlila Maidan alone. It is in villages and towns, among backward, Dalits and all sections,” Mr. Scindia said at the discussion.

He stressed that it was the UPA, led by Sonia Gandhi, which spearheaded the Right to Information (RTI) Act and other progressive measures. He pointed out that first interaction with the civil society was also taken up by the National Advisory Council (NAC), also led by Ms. Gandhi, while giving shape to RTI provisions.

BJP MP Varun Gandhi sounded caution about attempts being made to create a divide between Parliament and the people. Hailing Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade, Mr. Gandhi said that Mr. Hazare's initiative had sparked “something” among the youth of the country. While admitting that no single piece of legislation could be perfect, he said that the system had, over the years, failed the people. “The country needs massive funds in key sectors like health, infrastructure and education,” he said.

Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur said there was a perception among the people that political leaders had become the “fountainhead” of corruption. “People think we are not serious about weeding out corruption,” she said.

Making a passionate plea to redeem the credibility of democratic institutions such as Parliament, she pitched for a strong Lokpal Bill. She emphasised the need for addressing the “grey areas” that bred corruption, and a strong political will to change the system and make it people-centric.