Agreeing that "corruption is pervasive" which operates at "every level", Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha that a set of effective laws along with the creation of an statutory institution of Lokpal like the Election Commission would be required to fight the malaise.
"We cannot wish away corruption by the mere desire to see it removed from our lives. This requires a comprehensive framework of action and a concerted political programme supported by all levels of the State, from the highest to the lowest. Most importantly, it requires firm political will," he said during Zero Hour, amid noisy protests from National Democratic Alliance members.
Referring to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign, Gandhi said it has "helped the people to articulate" disillusionment and "I thank him for that".
At the same time, the Congress leader said, "Individual dictates, no matter how well-intentioned, must not weaken the democratic process... A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy."
"Today, the proposed law is against corruption. Tomorrow, the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the plurality of our society and democracy," Gandhi warned in the House as his sister Priyanka Gandhi watched from the visitors' gallery.
"Witnessing the events of the last few days, it would appear that the enactment of a single bill will usher in a corruption-free society. I have serious doubts about this belief," he said, adding that an effective Lokpal "is only one element in the legal framework to combat corruption."
He maintained that the "Lokpal institution alone cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive anti-corruption code. A set of effective laws is required."
His speech was disrupted by NDA members, who were protesting against his making a statement on the issue during Zero Hour. This triggered a clash with Congress members shouting back.
Speaker Meira Kumar ruled that she had allowed Gandhi to speak on the issue during Zero Hour after which Gandhi continued.
"We speak of a statutory Lokpal but our discussion ceases at the point of its accountability to the people and the risk that it might itself become corrupt," the Congress general secretary told the packed House, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being among those in attendance.
"Why not elevate the debate and fortify the Lokpal by making it a Constitutional body accountable to Parliament like the Election Commission of India? I feel the time has come for us to seriously consider this idea," he said.
Noting that the real question before the representatives of the people today was "whether we are prepared to take the battle against corruption head-on", Gandhi said, "It is not a matter of how the present impasse will resolve, it is a much greater battle. There are no simple solutions."
He said eradication of corruption demanded "a far deeper engagement and sustained commitment from each one of us."
Elaborating on effective laws needed to tackle corruption, the Congress leader said the critical issues which were necessary to stand alongside the Lokpal included government funding of elections and political parties.
The other issues were transparency in public procurement, proper regulation of sectors that fuel corruption like land and mining, grievance redress mechanisms in public service delivery of old age pensions and ration cards and continued tax reforms to end tax evasion, he said.
"We owe it to the people of this country to work together across party lines to ensure that Parliament functions at its optimum capacity and delivers these laws in a just and time-bound manner," Gandhi said.
Noting that laws and institutions were "not enough", he said "a representative, inclusive and accessible democracy is central to fighting corruption".
Observing that individuals have brought great gains to the country and galvanised people in the cause of freedom and development, he said the faith in democracy was shared by members of the House.
"I know that regardless of their political affiliation, many of my colleagues work tirelessly to realise the ideals upon which our nation was built. The pursuit of truth is the greatest of those ideals. It won us freedom. It gave us democracy," Gandhi said, appealing to the members to "commit ourselves to truth and probity in public life. We owe it the people of India."