On a day when crowds surged to Ramlila Maidan and later to India Gate to express their solidarity with the diminutive Gandhian, Team Anna announced that it did not trust the government or political parties and would keep a close watch on the government to ensure that the “morally binding commitment” given by Parliament was not frittered away.
Keen to press home the advantage gained in the last fortnight, Supreme Court lawyer and Anna aide Prashant Bhushan demanded that the government deliver on its assurance and convene a special session of Parliament as it had assured. “We hope the government convenes a special session of Parliament within a month’s time to pass the Lokpal Bill,” Bhushan said.
Allaying fears that despite popular sentiment, the issue may be delayed in the standing committee and may meet the same fate as earlier drafts, standing committee chairman Abhishek Singhvi said, “I have no hesitation in repeating that given a fair and balanced opportunity, my distinguished committee which I have the privilege to chair is likely to surprise all cynics, sceptics and non-believers.”
Even political scientists said it would be difficult for the government now to go slow. Yogendra Yadav said, “I don’t see Parliament going against the resolution that it adopted.” And the reason was not that the resolution could not be changed.
“What binds them is popular sentiment. They know that political establishment has lost legitimacy on the issue of corruption.” In fact, said Yadav, there would be competition for a stronger Lokpal. Some would say Lokpal should be a constitutional body, others would make different suggestions.
House has sent Team Anna’s three key demands to the standing committee on law and justice Committee will hold discussions on the Lokpal issue and examine 9 separate drafts of the bill, including versions by Aruna Roy and Jaiprakash Narayan Will also consider suggestions by various MPs (like Rahul Gandhi) and former CEC T N Seshan and public suggestions It will then send its report to Parliament. Technically, there is no deadline but given the circumstances, committee likely to table report by winter session Parliament will then discuss bill. Amendments can still be made at this stage Finally, the bill will be voted upon by Parliament.
Parties vow to stick to their word in House
Political parties responded with a mix of indignation and assurance to apprehensions from civil society and others that they might still go back on their stand as stated in the Parliament resolution. While Congress rejected such insinuation as “scarecrow suggestions”, the BJP said it would ensure the government didn’t go back on its word.
“I completely reject and deprecate scarecrow suggestions which amount to tilting at windmills that after such a long, open and vigorously transparent provision, continuing for days on an hourly basis before both the media and in Parliament, the whole process can simply be reversed, buried, delayed or frustrated,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
“Such extreme pessimism is neither good for the individual nor for the country. On the contrary, we should be proud of the winwin for Indian democracy as a whole where both government and civil society have reciprocally reached out to each other under the full scrutiny of every interested member of the polity.”
Opposition BJP too did not see the government going back on the Lokpal Bill, or moving away from the spirit of the resolution adopted by Parliament. Speaking in Nagpur, BJP president Nitin Gadkari assured Hazare of BJP’s continued support, saying the party would stand solidly behind him in his “selfless endeavour to transform society”.
“We promise you that the BJP will always be ready to rally around you and march forward under your leadership, should the need arise any time in future to fulfill your dream of a truly democratic, corruption-free India ,” Gadkari said.
He added, “Anna, rest assured, we will not let you down in and outside Parliament. Nor will we allow the government to betray you further.” Asked whether the BJP had any apprehension of the government not sticking to the resolution adopted in Parliament, Rajya Sabha MP and party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “I don’t think government has any choice because a sensible consensus has already emerged on various points which should be included in the Bill.
So, we are confident that an effective Lokpal can emerge within the constitutional framework, if the government makes an honest effort.” Sitaram Yechury, CPM leader in Rajya Sabha, also did not think that Parliament would go against its own resolution for a strong Lokpal bill.
However, PM Manmohan Singh and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi taking different lines on the bill while speaking in Parliament is the only thing which could come in the way of the final shape of the bill, feel some BJP MPs, since that shows a clear divide between Congress and the government. But even in that case, BJP feels it would be difficult for the government to go back on what it has promised, for the fear of a backlash from the people.