Leaders of major Opposition parties on Sunday shared the dais with anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare during his daylong fast at Jantar Mantar here and vowed to fight in Parliament for a “strong, effective and independent” Lokpal Bill.
If necessary, the winter session of Parliament should be extended, or a special session called, for a full and comprehensive discussion on the Bill, they suggested.
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders Arun Jaitley of the BJP and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) accused the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Law and Justice of not honouring in its report Parliament's ‘sense of the House' resolution on bringing the lower bureaucracy and the citizen's charter under the ambit of the Lokpal. “We will fight tooth and nail in Parliament for every comma and full stop of the ‘sense of the House' resolution to be honoured,” Mr. Yadav declared at the public meeting.
The two-hour debate, held before enthusiastic crowds, saw Opposition parties — whose representatives had given dissenting notes to the Standing Committee's recommendations — agreeing with most of the points raised by Team Anna, especially the inclusion of Prime Minister, the lower bureaucracy and the CBI's anti-corruption wing in the Lokpal. All of them wanted the CBI to be out of government control and the Lokpal selection procedure to be representative and transparent.
Buoyed by the political support, Mr. Hazare urged the leaders to “come to the street and join the movement” if they failed to muster the numbers in Parliament to defeat a “weak Lokpal” Bill brought in by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. “Your presence has strengthened the movement. If you do not have the numbers in Parliament to defeat the government Lokpal Bill, then join the people in their struggle for a strong, effective and independent Lokpal.”
Ticking off Team Anna, however, for initially keeping politicians away, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan warned it against branding those who disagreed with it as “corrupt” and advised it to “listen to others” and “be flexible.” He agreed with the demand to bring the Prime Minister's Office under the Lokpal because the PMO was the “clearing house” for several decisions. The Group C employees should be included because ordinary people came into contact with them, not with Joint Secretaries and Secretaries.
Questioning the government's intentions, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat said the government was going after NGOs, whereas big corporate and industrial houses, “which loot the country,” were being left out of the Lokpal. She favoured a separate grievance redress Bill to deal with public grievances, but called for inclusion of the “corruption part” under the Lokpal.
Standing Committee member Pinaki Mishra related how the panel reversed its stand on the Group C employees and the CBI after the recommendations were finalised.
Yerran Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, S.S. Dhindsa of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Ramgopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party also pledged their support for a strong and independent Lokpal. No Congress representative was present. The party later said legislation could not be drafted at Jantar Mantar.