Anna's proposals on Jan Lokpal to be discussed in Parliament

August 25, 2011 07:09 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 12:31 am IST - New Delhi

Supporters of Anna Hazare attempt to gherao Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Supporters of Anna Hazare attempt to gherao Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

On a day of fast-paced developments, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday reached out to the fasting anti-corruption crusader, Anna Hazare, with a new formula to break the log-jam on the contours of the proposed Lokpal institution: a debate in Parliament over his proposals with a promise to refer the sense of the House to the Standing Committee for its consideration. This was followed by an extraordinary gesture from the Lok Sabha, which joined Dr. Singh's appeal to Mr. Hazare to end his fast. Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj associated herself with this call, as did Speaker Meira Kumar.

On the face of it, the response of Mr. Hazare to Dr. Singh's formulation and the call of the Lok Sabha was belligerent. In a spirited address to the gathering on the Ramlila grounds, he cast doubts on the intentions of the entire political class but kept the door open for the Parliament to pave the way for a resolution of the crisis.

Replying to a discussion in the Lok Sabha, Dr. Singh mentioned three separate civil society initiatives — on crafting legislation to tackle the scourge of corruption, including the Team Anna Jan Lokpal Bill — and said those could be debated by the House. The record of the deliberations should be sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee that is examining the Lokpal Bill, with a request for its consideration.

Replying to Dr. Singh's proposal, Mr. Hazare told his supporters that the litmus test for Parliament, if it desired him to call off his agitation, would be in arriving at consensus on his three specific demands — bringing the lower bureaucracy within the ambit of the Lokpal, parallel Lokayuktas at the State levels, and a citizen's charter for time-bound disposal of public grievances.

Close on the heels of Dr. Singh's offer, the ruling establishment got busy on the nitty-gritty of how it could get the Lok Sabha to adopt the suggestion. After consultations with leaders of the Opposition, the government is contemplating introducing a resolution in the House on Friday for consideration and adoption. At the time of writing of this report there was no clarity as to how exactly the subject could be taken up on the floor of the House.

The sense, as Mr. Hazare's fast entered 10th day, was that the government and the Congress has finally got its political act together. Besides the parliamentary initiative, the Prime Minister dispatched the former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, as his emissary to communicate his proposal to Mr. Hazare and formally bring back the response of the social activist. It was followed by hectic parleys between Mr. Deshmukh and the Congress managers on a response to Mr. Hazare's demands.

There were some fireworks earlier in the day at the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), where some party members expressed their displeasure over the handling of the Anna episode. At the same time, the message from the CPP was that right-wing forces were taking full advantage of the agitation and the government should not withdraw its Bill.

Close on the heels of the CPP, after the Prime Minister “applauded and saluted” Mr. Hazare, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari, who had incurred the wrath of Team Anna for his charges that the crusader was “corrupt from tip to toe,” was left with no option but to publicly expressed regret for the hurt he had caused.

The BJP, on its part, threw its weight behind the agitation without committing itself to his Bill. Party president Nitin Gadkari maintained that the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill should be the “basis” for a strong legislation. Later in the evening, the core members of Team Anna called on the Working Chairman of the NDA L.K. Advani.

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