The battle for a strong Lokpal Bill seems to have become a question of who will blink first as Anna Hazare’s fast entered the fifth day on Saturday, with the government showing no signs initiating dialogue with Team Anna. The activists said that if the government wants, it can pass a strong Lokpal bill within a week, and voiced their disappointment with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not clarifying its stand on the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing committee on Personnel, Public grievances, Law and Justice, which is to suggest amendments to the Lokpal Bill, has published advertisements in leading newspapers, seeking ideas and suggestions on the bill. Team Anna criticised the ad, calling it a “diversionary tactic.” A key member of Anna’s group, Arvind Kejriwal, asked the standing committee to reject government’s weak Lokpal bill and not “waste time” on it.
Anti-corruption activist and former top cop Kiran Bedi said, “Had government been serious about public opinion on the issue, they would have printed the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill along with that of the government’s bill so that an informed debate could take place.” The activists also took a dig at the standing committee’s composition stating that since it has politicians like Lalu Yadav and Amar Singh, allegedly involved in corruption, it can enjoy the benefit of their ‘experience’.
On allegations that their fast is being backed by BJP/RSS or America, Anna Hazare said those saying so “should be sent to a mental hospital. Tomorrow they may say that Pakistan is backing us.” Team Anna went on to criticise the BJP for not making public their stand on the Lokpal bill.
“Nine political parties, including the left parties, have openly come out against the government’s Lokpal bill but the BJP has not done so … we are disappointed with them, they should make their stand clear,” said Arvind Kejriwal.
In the morning, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said they are also in favour of a strong Lokpal, but there should be scope for give and take.
In another development, National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy on Saturday said Anna Hazare was “ill-advised” as there was still scope for the civil society group to change the government’s version of Lokpal Bill. Roy said the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), with which she is associated, has prepared a version of Lokpal Bill and would present it before the government.
On Friday, Team Anna had said that the Jan Lokpal bill should be passed as soon as possible but soon questions were raised on the feasibility of the entire process. Former union law minister Shanti Bhushan said this can be done.
“The government’s Lokpal bill can be withdrawn and the Jan Lokpal Bill can then be introduced on Tuesday in Lok Sabha, after which it can be discussed at length by the MPs over the next two days. The bill could be then sent to the Rajya Sabha, and by August 29-30, the discussions can be concluded and the bill may be passed,” said Bhushan.
Meanwhile, compared to Friday, the crowd nearly doubled at the Ramlila Maidan on Saturday. By evening, a sea of supporters were waving the tricolour, raising slogans and cheering continuously.
Support also continued to pour in, with organisations like the Bhartiya Kisaan Union joining the movement. But it was not only organisaitons that came out in support; teachers, government servants and families brought water packets, food, and biscuits for people camping at the place.