Expanding the ambit of his anti-corruption campaign and taking a step further into the electoral reforms issue, social activist Anna Hazare will write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his opinion on introducing the ‘right to reject' for voters and the right to recall elected representatives.
The letter will seek the Prime Minister's view on whether measures can be suggested to audit the performance of MPs. “Anna will ask the PM if there should be an annual performance audit on MPs. On the basis of this people should have the right to recall elected representatives,” Team Anna's core committee member Arvind Kejriwal informed journalists here after a daylong meeting of the group on Saturday.
Mr. Kejriwal attended the meeting with Mr. Hazare, along with the former IPS officer, Kiran Bedi, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, senior lawyer Shanti Bhushan, the former Supreme Court judge, Santosh Hegde, social activist Medha Patkar and others.
The letter will seek Dr. Singh's view on introducing a ‘none of the above' option on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). “Once the voters have opted for the ‘none of the above' option, then there should be a provision to cancel the elections, and call for a re-election,” Mr Kejriwal explained. “These suggestions can be incorporated at the soonest, without changing the law, before the upcoming municipal and State elections in many parts of the country,” he said. He added that the members of the core committee would meet Chief Election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, and appeal to him to take necessary action.
‘Public opinion excluded'
Team Anna members feel that the Cabinet approved the Land Acquisition Bill without consulting the public. “There was no discussion with the public, and the democratic process wasn't followed,” Mr. Kejriwal said. Mr. Hazare will seekthat the Bill be presented in front of the Cabinet again and people's views taken into account.
“At the very least, the Bill should include a provision that no land can be acquired without the approval of the Gram Sabha at the village level, and Mohulla Sabha at the city level,” Mr. Kejriwal said. More autonomy and decision-making powers would be sought for Gram Sabhas and Mohulla Sabhas.
Members of Anna Hazare's core committee came out strongly against social activist Aruna Roy, who leads the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information, stating that what she proposed as an alternative to the Jan Lokpal Bill was “against the law and the Constitution.” Ms. Roy had not suggested an alternative Bill or law, but merely “a proposal, a concept note,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
He said Ms. Roy had wrongly alleged that Team Anna had not discussed the issue with her, in spite of having had three meetings with the members. “When we were supposed to meet her in [veteran journalist] Kuldip Nayar's house, she sent us back from the gate saying that she didn't want to talk to me. We tried, but she is not ready to engage in dialogue,” Mr. Kejriwal said.
He said there were three major differences between the Jan Lokpal bill and Ms. Roy's version. She demanded that if the Prime Minister was found corrupt, then both the Lokpal Bench and the Supreme Court Bench should give permission for his prosecution. “How will the Supreme Court give permission to the police to conduct a trial in the lower court? This is unconstitutional,” Mr. Kejriwal said.
Ms. Roy has suggested that officers of the lower bureaucracy be made answerable to the police and not to the Lokpal. If the police were unsuccessful in handling a corruption case, then an appeal can be made for inquiry to the Vigilance Commission. According to Mr. Kejriwal, this provision is against the law. “You cannot change the Code of Criminal Procedure. That is unconstitutional,” he said.
The other point on which Team Anna disagreed with Ms. Roy was on the Citizens' Charter. “According to Ms. Roy, all public grievances should be a part of the Charter. This is not possible. It has to be focused on corruption,” Mr. Kejriwal said.
Stating that her opinion on the anti-graft legislation was “not right,” Mr. Kejriwal said: “We are still open to discussion. She can have a dialogue with us on any open forum.”
Asked about Team Anna's opinion on Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani's proposed yatra against corruption across the country, Mr. Kejriwal said: “The country needs a Jan Lokpal Bill, and not a yatra.”
“Any party that is serious about eradicating corruption should tell its MPs to vote for the Jan Lokpal Bill in its entirety. It should start the institution of the Lokayukta in all its States, and that will be enough.”
Speaking to the media earlier in the day, Mr. Santosh Hedge had said: “We are apolitical. So we support the cause, and not the party.”
Ms. Bedi, however, had said on Friday: “We will support anyone who is willing to fight against corruption.”
Speaking to the people earlier in the day, Mr. Hazare said MPs who voted against the Jan Lokpal Bill should not be re-elected. “There are elections in six States next year. People must gherao the houses of the MPs who vote against the Jan Lokpal Bill. They must be defeated.”