The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday termed the communal violence bill as "the most obnoxious piece of legislation in independent India", saying had it been in place earlier, it would have resulted in punishment of the members of only the majority community over the Muzaffarnagar riots.
"The 2011 draft, which the National Advisory Council prepared, I have not the least doubt, is the most obnoxious peace of legislation in independent India," Arun Jaitley, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, said.
"For instance, in Muzaffarnagar violence, if this bill had existed and both communities had representatives who were guilty of violence, one would be prosecuted under this law, others would not," he said, terming the controversial bill divisive and discriminatory.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said the bill has been prepared to curb the "ideology of hate and violence".
"This is something absolutely important in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-caste society that India is," he said.
Both the leaders were speaking at a discussion on A new vision for India at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Asked about their views on the rise of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, which is expected to make a strong debut in Delhi assembly polls, Jaitley said it has to be seen whether it is a long lasting phenomena or not.
Jaitley had earlier dismissed the AAP's presence in the fray, saying opting for it would be a waste of votes.
But he seemed to have reconciled to the party’s emergence, admitting that he had no other choice on the matter but to welcome it.
Singh said he would welcome all civil society members, who want power without any accountability, in politics.
Singh blamed the BJP's confrontational attitude since 2004, when it lost power at the Centre, for pending bills and loss of work in Parliament.
"Highest number of bills pending is in the present Lok Sabha and on a number of occasions, on petty issues, Parliament was not allowed to function. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can be charged on any issue but not for confrontation. He is one man who is not a confrontationist," he said.
Jaitley said it was a myth that the BJP was not allowing economic legislation to go through in Parliament. He blamed the economic slowdown on "executive decision-making and weak prime ministerial authority which lacked in overruling" one voice in favour of another.
"If you slow down on infrastructure, it is not Parliament that comes in between. If you slow down on clearing 700 thousand crores worth of project, it is not Parliament coming in between...
"Now within the government there are differences of opinion and the prime ministerial authority is lacking in certainly overruling in favour of another, the slowdown is because of that," he said.
Both leaders blamed the societal sanction for criminals as a major reason for the fall in standards of politics, with Singh saying that "in a democracy, people get the government they deserve".
When both were quizzed about tainted former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa's likely return to the BJP and the Congress' tie-up in Jharkhand with Shibu Soren, Jaitley said voters’ preference for such leaders left the parties with little option but to rely on them.
"There is an impression, to a large extent true, that the quality of people who man politics does not measure up. We in the political parties have to improve the quality of people who represent parties in legislative and other bodies," he said.
There was no point in criticising the system from outside, he said, adding that more well-meaning people must join political parties or form political parties and contribute to politics.
Singh said one of the major causes of cynicism among people is the judicial delay in corruption cases.
"We have to look at how we reduce the right to appeal in certain cases," he said.
Singh also demanded that officials should be made accountable for delivery of services, saying the existing delivery mechanism was very poor.
"We are a country where no bureaucrat has been punished for not taking a decision. Every politician or bureaucrat is punished for taking a decision, right or wrong. What this country needs is an improved service delivery mechanism and then accountability of the bureaucrat," he said.
Both leaders agreed that abuse and slander in political speeches were avoidable but Jaitley added that some spice and flavour made electioneering interesting.
Jaitley demanded that the Election Commission review "unnecessary restrictions" imposed on the number of meetings, speeches and rallies, which he said needed to be actively encouraged as people believed in attending these events before making up their mind.
Both leaders agreed to the need of electoral reforms but said these should be workable and practical.