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How the PM turned down Anna Hazare's solution

August 27, 2011 14:19 IST

The prime minister has to blame himself because he refused to make up with Anna Hazare when the social activist from Maharashtra was willing to meet him more than half way, says Kuldip Nayar.

I too had tried for conciliation between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gandhian Anna Hazare on the Jan Lokpal bill. This was on the fifth day of Hazare's fast and his movement against corruption had brought thousands of people on streets throughout the country.

Soon after I heard Manmohan Singh saying on television networks that the government was open to a 'discussion or dialogue' on the Lokpal bill placed before Parliament, I saw an aperture of opportunity. That very afternoon, I went to meet Hazare whom I knew a bit. I found him prepared for a compromise provided the three basic conditions were substantially met.

The first condition was the independence of the judiciary. I told him to have a Lokpal exclusively for the judiciary. Hazare readily agreed to it.

The second was the prime minister. Hazare was willing to divide the office in two parts, one relating to governance and the other to acts of corruption. He only wanted to pursue the instance of corruption if prima facie a case was established as enunciated in the Lokpal bill, Hazare's version.

The third condition was the independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Hazare agreed to place the organisation under the Supreme Court until the modified Lokpal bill was passed in Parliament.

I did not speak to the prime minister directly, but someone who knows him personally conveyed what Hazare had conceded. The prime minister's reply was not helpful. He said that Hazare should go before Parliament's Standing Committee which was discussing the matter.

The plea that he should invite Hazare to a special sitting of all political parties was also rejected by the prime minister. I find that what the government has agreed to after three days of my initiative is more or less the same.

The prime minister and the CBI will come under the ambit of the Lokpal. The judiciary will be independent of the Lokpal, under a judicial commission to be finalised in consultation with Hazare.

One thing that came out clearly from the brief exercise that I undertook was Hazare's humility and the government's arrogance. I do not know why it believes that by running him down it would be in a better position to deal with him.

First, the Congress party's Young Turk, Manish Tewari, abuses him. He is followed by Home Minister P Chidambaram and Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal who do not use foul language, but make fun of Hazare.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was more cynical and characterises his methods as 'misconceived.' The prime minister should know that Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, went on indefinite fasts many times and offered satyagraha against the British rulers during the freedom struggle.

As if abuses were not enough, the government and the Congress party have told the nation, no more gullible, that Hazare is being helped by a foreign hand. Will it give us any proof since the government talks about transparency day in and day out? Indira Gandhi, who imposed the Emergency and detained 100,000 people without trial, called Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan, the spirit of the movement at that time, a CIA agent. The Congress was defeated at the 1977 polls as it looks happening in the 2014 general election.

All this is probably history. But the nation should also learn a lesson. In democracy there is no either black or white, but also a grey area. One cannot fix the date or insist publicly on treading a particular path. Consensus is important and there has to be a give and take so that the majority and the minority are brought around to accept the compromise formula.

The Congress has never liked dissent or defiance. It treats every popular movement as a law and order problem. That is the reason why it has not yet understood the rationale of any popular outburst. Hazare is only the face of people's resentment against the government. The government is still oblivious to the countrywide resentment against it. Either its intelligence agencies are deluding it or it is merely reflecting the mentality of dictators.

For the youth, the movement has been a catharsis of their failings, not having ideals any more or not following any value-based system. It has seen in Hazare's movement a chance to restore the line that Indira Gandhi had erased between right and wrong, moral and immoral. They have rediscovered the Gandhi cap which has represented self-sufficiency and our assertion against the rulers' suppression. The Congress should have commended the awakening of the youth instead of using wrong tactics to defame the movement.

The youth is confused by Aruna Roy's open criticism of Hazare's Lokpal bill. He himself realises some of its limitations. But the activists cannot afford to show division in their ranks when the government is out to crush a movement that has caught the people's imagination.

I respect Aruna's integrity and the tremendous work she has done to get the Right to Information act on the structure. But I felt disappointed that she had to voice her opposition at a time when the movement was facing the government's hostility. I am glad she has put before the nation a third draft of the Lokpal bill. But it too suffers from many limitations.

The foreign media again got it all wrong. It has been conveying that India was going the way of the Arab countries and might throw out the government. This is not true. The Arab nations have never enjoyed democracy. People there want freedom to govern themselves. In India, people have that freedom already. They express themselves the way they want. They carry no guns like the Arab countries. The behaviour of America or the UK after 9/11 has been undemocratic and anti-people. Because of their fear of terrorists, the two nations have accepted the restriction on individual freedom and adopted such laws which make a mockery of their traditional right to speech.

Manmohan Singh could have probably retrieved the situation if he had been his own master.

Since the return of Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi from America, where his mother Sonia Gandhi has had an operation for cancer, the government's entire strategy has changed. Power has shifted to 24 Abkar Road, the Congress headquarters.

Today, everything around the prime minister has fallen and he is a lonely person. But he has to blame himself because he refused to make up with Hazare when the latter was willing to meet him more than half way.

The prime minister can take the stand that he had to take along the Congress president and his cabinet members. But posterity will blame him.

Kuldip Nayar