Anna Hazare

Anna Hazare wins it for the people

History was made in Parliament on Saturday when the two Houses bowed to Anna Hazare’s campaign, powered by a groundswell of popular support, for a strong and independent Lokpal.

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha unanimously resolved that the Standing Committee would consider Anna’s three demands – including the lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal’s purview, a central law for creating Lok Ayuktas in states and a citizen’s charter for government departments providing public service. This finally paved the way for Anna’s 12-day fast to end.

Supporters of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare celebrate as Mr. Hazare announces his decision to call off his fast in New Delhi on Saturday.

This is the first instance of Parliament explicitly agreeing to accommodate demands raised by an ‘outsider’, that too when the official bill had already been moved. A jubilant Anna Hazare responded to Parliament’s endorsement of his demands by announcing that he would call off his fast at 10am on Sunday. His aides promptly called upon the people to flock to Ramlila Maidan to participate in this victory of popular will.

Last day of fast?

But the historic moment almost didn’t come about. Anxiety hit the process once again when in the afternoon Team Anna members announced that the government was going back on its word. It was later learnt that the agreed upon draft resolution was changed and this almost scuppered the deal. Eventually Prime Minister Manmohan Singhstepped in, and with the help of top BJP leaders and his own colleagues, pushed through an acceptable resolution.

Later, the PM publicly threw his weight behind the reconciliation. “Parliament has spoken. Parliament’s will is the will of the people,” he said, bringing a closure to the standoff.

The lonely face of a protest?

There was momentary confusion when Parliament opted to unanimously adopt the resolution through the ‘sense of the House’ instead of passing it by voice vote. However, civil society activists accepted it. As Medha Patkar said, “The important thing is that our three demands have been accepted.”

Parliament’s extraordinary gesture on Saturday brought out its capacity to adapt and innovate in response to an extraordinary expression of popular aspirations, reflected in the countrywide outpouring of support for Anna’s anti-corruption charter. A huge throng camped at Ramlila Maidan as Parliament debated Anna’s demands.

The day also saw the much-maligned political class rise to the challenge. Speeches in both Houses were non-partisan, and effectively rebuffed anxieties about Parliament’s relevance or its preparedness to deal with graft.

The resolution adopted by the two Houses strikes a balance between the competing considerations of heeding the clamour for strong anti-corruption measures in the wake of a series of scams and the political class’s determination to not allow Parliament’s authority on law-making to be undermined. Even as it conceded the Anna group’s demands, the resolution also made it plain that the procedure of the scrutiny of the law by the Standing Committee would not be scuppered.

Soon after the resolution was passed, Manmohan Singh sent Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sandeep Dikshit, both of whom were acting as government mediators, to Anna Hazare with a copy of it and a request to call off his fast.

The resolution was the result of a remarkable display of give-and-take by all the protagonists. The government, which had staunchly resisted the civil society group’s efforts to dictate the shape of the Lokpal law, did not allow ego to come in the way as it changed tack. The PM, who said he was ready to walk the extra mile, did so at a crucial time when he overruled the nay-sayers to give his nod to a conciliatory resolution.

This was the second time in the week that the PM had taken charge of the government’s efforts, even if belated, to defuse the confrontation. On Wednesday, he had turned down the effort of his colleagues to re-open a resolution that he had worked out with the Opposition after an all-party meeting.

The Opposition also matched the government’s conciliatory attitude. The speech of Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, was bereft of partisan considerations, and set the stage for non-acrimonious debate. In fact, at one point in Jaitley’s speech, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee asked the BJP leader to explain a finer legal point. Later, Jaitley along with L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj helped craft the resolution that passed muster with the civil society activists.

Team Anna, too, did not lag behind. The players who had been frequently accused of taking maximalist positions, chose to settle for a solution that did not quite meet their expectations. Prashant Bhushan, a dogged warrior in the court and outside, acknowledged that they would have preferred an iron-clad commitment. However, he expressed the hope that Parliament, having recognized the depth of anti-corruption feelings, would not resile on its commitment.

Source : TOI

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