Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: Jan Lokpal Bill

Anna and Arvind part ways

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have parted ways. The issue was political formation. Many in IAC wanted to form a political party to fight corruption. Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and some others were opposed to it. The meeting on 19/9/2012 lasted nine hours. Yogendra Yadav was the moderator. Anna Hazare said those who want to form a political party can go ahead with it but should not use his name or photograph. Arvind Kejriwal said Anna Hazare’s decision was shocking, unbelievable and sad.

Baba Ramdev and some other people wanted a split between Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Arvind Kejriwal was opposed to all political parties. Kiran Bedi was in favour of BJP. Arvind Kejriwal did not want to join with Baba Ramdev as there were tax evasion cases against him. RSS people wanted to use IAC against Congress. Industrialist Sitaram Jindal had a role in arranging meetings of Anna Hazare with people opposed to Arvind Kejriwal.

IAC had made corruption an issue and had raised hopes of corruption-free India. Jan Lokpal Bill was its demand. Congress came with a Lopkpal Bill that was not acceptable to IAC but was passed in Lok Sabha. Anna Hazare’s fast at MMRDA Grounds did not have expected crowds. The fast was to last three days. He called off his fast on second day. Congress managed to disrupt Rajya Sabha and the Lokpal Bill was not passed. Chairman Hamid Ansari played a role in allowing discussion till midnight and sabotaging the bill.

IAC demanded resignation of 15 ministers for corruption. The ministers did not oblige. Anna Hazare had a secret meeting with Salman Khurshid. IAC members were surprised when they came to know about it. Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai held fast at Jantar Mantar. Anna Hazare joined a few days later. The fast was called off on appeal by 22 persons. On the last day there was a decision to go political based on an SMS poll. Anna Hazare did not oppose it then.

Corruption is an issue. Congress is doing its best to divert attention from corruption. Coalgate became too hot to handle. Congress came with “reforms”. Soon coalgate was forgotten. TMC issued 72 hours deadline for rollback. Many parties opposed Congress and called for Bharat Bandh. After the deadline expired TMC announced withdrawal of support to UPA.

Fight against corruption is continuous process. Sometimes new challenges develop. Arvind Kejriwal was an RTI activist. RTI was instrumental in exposing corruption. Now two judges of the Supreme Court have made a mess of RTI by their verdict that only retired or serving justices of Supreme Court or chief justices of High Courts can head information commissions and half of the information commissioners should be judicial members. This verdict will create problems in fight against corruption.

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal may fight against corruption separately but it is not clear how effective they will be. It is time for Kumar Vishwas, Shazia Ilmi, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai and other prominent IAC members to take sides. Shanti Bhushan is optimistic that they can win 2014 election. Yogendra Yadav thinks first election is to be lost, second election is to defeat, third election is to form government. In 2009 many people like Gopinath and Meera Sanyal contested as independents and lost.

To form government at centre, Arvind Kejriwal and others need to field 543 candidates and win 272 seats. Without 272 seats they will have to depend on others and make compromises. They should beware of moles who will pass on information and scuttle programmes. They should form a shadow cabinet and decide who will hold which portfolio if elected. Legislative Assembly elections are due in Gujarat and some other states before 2014. IAC members can test their strength during those elections. They need to take a stand against corporate debt restructuring. They need not take a stand against any issue unless it has something to do with corruption. They may take a stand against reservations in legislatures, government jobs and government-run educational institutions or avoid it.

Gang of Four

Gang of Four originally meant Jiang Qing, Wang Hongwen, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan who were powerful during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in China. Anna Hazare spoke of Gang of Four in UPA government without mentioning names. One of them is P. Chidambaram. Second is likely to be Kapil Sibal. Who are the other two? Some talk of Digvijay Singh and Manish Tewari but they are not ministers.

Whoever they are the Gang of Four has succeeded in diverting attention from corruption. First there was attack on Prashant Bhushan ostensibly for his remarks on Kashmir. Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi did not agree with Prashant Bhushan. Then Arvind Kejriwal joined the august company headed by George Bush of people who were attacked by shoes. Then reports appeared about Kiran Bedi’s travel bills. When the first report appeared Arun Bhatia said Kiran Bedi should sue Indian Express for five crore rupees for defamation and give that money to her trust. However Kiran Bedi did not do that. Swamy Agnivesh accused Arvind Kejriwal of misappropriation. Two core committee members quit. Anna Hazare took the vow of silence.

It was not all doom and gloom for activists. NDTV conferred Indian of the Year Award on Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.

On 29/10/2011 core committee met in Ghaziabad and decided to continue the fight for Jan Lokpal Bill.

China’s Gang of Four members lost power and went to prison. Anna Hazare and Yashwant Sinha have said that P. Chidambaram should be in jail.

Lokpal Bills

Anna Hazare had told that if his Lokpal Bill, known as Jan Lokpal Bill, is not passed by 15/8/2011 he would begin his fast on 16/8/2011. The government had introduced its Bill in Lok Sabha which was different from the one drafted by Anna Hazare group. That bill was sent to a standing committee. Prashant Bhushan called the government Bill Promotion of Corruption Bill.

The government did not want a strong Lokpal Bill. Monsoon session usually begins in the middle of July. The government postponed it to the beginning of August. The government hid behind Delhi police to put restrictions on the fast and when arrests backfired it released the members. Anna Hazare was not in a hurry to leave Tihar jail and left it when Ramlila Ground, famous or notorious for crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his followers, was ready for his fast.

Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan appeared on various channels. Karan Thapar’s interview on CNN-IBN was a nasty one. He said Anna Hazare’s fast was blackmail and when told that Gandhi fasted he said that was blackmail. Ram Jethamalani had walked out on one occasion and Karan Thapar had got an award for that episode. Either Karan Thapar does not know blackmail is a crime and somebody can be punished for it or he knows and wrongly accused Anna Hazare and Gandhi of blackmail.

Kiran Bedi said “Anna is India, India is Anna.” That reminded many of Deo Kant Barooah who in 1974 said “Indira is India, India is Indira.” Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan disagreed with Kiran Bedi.

Feroze Varun Gandhi and Rajeev Chandrashekhar said they would introduce Jan Lokpal Bill as private member’s bill. The standing committee advertised for comments and suggestions and Congress MP from Bareilly sent Jan Lokpal Bill to it. A group called National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) sent its draft which is different from government and Jan Lokpal Bills. Some members of NCPRI are NAC members. It seems the government is using NCPRI to delay Lokpal Bill.

Anna Hazare has set 30/8/2011 to pass Jan Lokpal Bill. Government does not want to do it and parliamentary procedure is an excuse to delay the bill. When the government wants 17 bills get passed in 12 minutes. The constitution does not mention standing committee and standing committee’s recommendation is not binding on government or parliament. The government wants people to wait till winter session for Lokpal Bill to be passed. Many times MPs do not want to wait for an hour to discuss their topic and want suspension of Question Hour and when that is not granted disrupt the proceedings for the whole day. Once something is postponed it may never take place. Chandigarh was to go to Punjab on 26/1/1986. That was postponed and Chandigarh remains a Union Territory after 25 years.

Lokpal Bill has come and gone for 43 years. Beneficiaries of corruption do not want corruption to end. If Prevention of Corruption Act had been effective there would have been no need for Lokpal Bill. Over the years it was diluted, it became difficult to prosecute ministers, bureaucrats and judges, and as one judge put it, it became Preservation of Corruption Act.

It is people who are supreme and not parliament. It is wrong to say that it is an upper class movement because there is no Dalit or Tribal or Muslim leader in it. Many Dalits, Tribals and Muslims are upper class. Corruption affects all.

On 23/8/2011 Anna Hazare refused drip and hospitalisation and asked the people to resist non-violently if police come to take him away forcibly. The all-party meeting held at 3.30 p.m. on 24/8/2011 concluded without coming to a definite conclusion. NDA and Left Front wanted withdrawal of government bill and introduction of a strong Lokpal Bill. UPA did not want to withdraw the bill. After that Anna Hazare group had second round of talks with Pranab Mukherjee and Salman Khurshid. The talks failed. At 9.54 p.m. Prashant Bhushan said it was back to square one.

There is a strange thing of TV channels using separate cameras for people in studio, as if they are at separate places. If there are five people five cameras are used. The anchor speaks to the panellist who is to her left and she appears on the top left of TV and the panellist appears at the bottom left. The panellist on the right appears on left and vice versa.

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