As part of the government’s efforts to forge an alliance with opposition parties against the mass movement led by Gandhian Anna Hazare, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told members of the Parliament that the government was opposing Anna to save their rights.
Talking before the actual introduction of the bill in Lok Sabha today, Mukherjee said the Government was very clear that Anna Hazare and his group will not be allowed to dictate terms to them (the MPs), drawing thumps of approval from MPs, particularly those of the Congress party.
He said there was no question of the Civil Society giving the Parliament of India and the latter simply rubber-stamping it, an obvious reference to the charge that the Government did not put up the Civil Society version of the Lokpal bill before the Parliament.
Instead of putting up both versions of the bill, the Government has tabled only its own version, more or less leaving the activists’ version in the trash.
Mukherjee said there was nothing wrong in how the government went about the drafting process with the Civil Society, pointing out that it had only promised to “take their inputs” in the process and was free to dispose of the “inputs” as it saw fit.
“We agreed to take their inputs.. There was no question of diluting the authority of Parliament in making the legislation,” he said.
He then said that the Cabinet did not want to take the decision on Lokpal, but wanted the Parliament to take the final call.
“The decision is to be taken by you, not by executive, not by Cabinet,” he said, in an effort to project the decision to junk the Civil Society version of the bill as defending the Parliament. This remark too drew wide applause from the MPs of the ruling Congress Party.
He, however, did not explain why Anna Hazare’s inputs were not also presented to the Parliament, if the Government did not want to ‘dictate’ terms or influence Parliament’s decision on the matter. Anna and his group wanted the Parliament to be presented with alternatives from both the Government and the Civil Society’s sides, so that the MPs could choose one or the other.
Each of the provisions, on which the Government over-ruled the Civil Society, are likely to be hotly debated by the MPs in the coming days.
It is not clear whether the opposition parties like BJP will buy into Congress’ attempt to bring all parties on its side against Anna’s Lokpal bill.
The BJP has said that it has mixed feelings about what Anna wants from the Lokpal, India’s future anti-corruption ombudsman, terming some of his demands as agreeable and others as not.
All the parties are expected to make their positions clear in the Parliament, starting from today.