Demands for a strong Lokpal Bill gathered momentum in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday with nine Opposition parties including the CPI(M), the CPI, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the All India Forward Bloc staging State-wide dharnas and demonstrations.

In a related development, former UP Chief Minister and Jan Kranti Party patron Kalyan Singh has thrown his weight behind the anti-corruption crusade of social activist Anna Hazare. Mr. Singh, who is a member of the Lok Sabha from Etah, has demanded that a special session of Parliament be convened to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill authored by members of the civil society. The former Bharatiya Janata Party leader was of the view that the Lokpal Bill of the UPA government, tabled in the Lok Sabha, lacks teeth to control corruption.

The focus of the Opposition protest was primarily in Lucknow where leaders and workers of the Left parties, RLD and Janata Dal (Secular) marched from their respective offices to Jhule Lal Park where they sat on dharna. Demanding a strong and effective Lokpal Bill, speakers at the Opposition parties' demonstration said the people's anger over corruption could not be ignored.

Addressing the meeting, State CPI secretary Girish said that the Prime Minister and the Central Bureau of Investigation should be under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill. He also emphasised the need for a Judicial Accountability Bill for the judiciary. The CPI leader said that the UPA government and the civil society members should find ways to end the stalemate and work for a strong and effective Lokpal Bill.

The protest meeting was also addressed by Madhu Garg of the CPI(M), RLD's State unit president Baba Hardeo Singh and Ram Kishore of the Forward Bloc. They were also in favour of a strong Lokpal Bill and underlined the need for effective steps against corruption. The Opposition dharnas and demonstrations were also held in other cities and towns across the State.

Among the other demands of the Opposition parties were steps to control price rise and measures to curb the practice of denying the people the right to protest.

Supporting the cause taken up by Mr. Hazare, Mr. Kalyan Singh said in a statement issued in Lucknow that the UPA Government could not afford to ignore the popular sentiment against corruption. “A strong Jan Lokpal Bill is required to curb corruption,” he added.