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Anna should end fast NOW, says govt and Oppn

Last updated on: August 27, 2011 17:26 IST

Anna should end fast NOW, says govt and Oppn

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The government and opposition on Saturday appeared to be on the same page in Lok Sabha during the debate on the Lokpal issue with both sides emphasising that Anna Hazare should end his fast.

A discussion in the House over the issue saw the two sides moving closer to a consensus on most points, including the three sticky issues of including the lower bureaucracy, appointing Lokayuktas in states and having a Citizens' Charter, which were a bone of contention in the past.

The tone of the debate was set by National Democratic Alliance Working President L K Advani who in his brief remarks appealed to the House to discuss the issue for the entire day but ensure that by evening the views of the House reach Hazare.

He felt that today's discussion would be fruitful only if Hazare heeds the appeals made by the prime minister, Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker and the House and breaks his fast.

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Image: National Democratic Alliance Working President L K Advani

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Our prime minister hardly speaks: Sushma

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Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said history has given the House an opportunity to pass this legislation and it should not miss it by getting entangled in technicalities.    "Let us give this country an effective, strong, free and impartial Lokpal," she said.

Ending all speculations about Bharatiya Janata Party's reservations on the three sticky points on which Team Anna was adamant, Swaraj said her party gives its consent to all of them.

The Congress also underlined that the government was agreeable to reasonable changes on the contentious issues and most of it is "a matter of dialogue and design".  

Sandeep Dikshit (Cong) said the debate should firstly limit its aim to reaching a consensus so that Hazare can end his fast, which entered its 12th day on Saturday.

Swaraj touched upon several points about the Lokpal issue which have been in controversy recently. "At a time when a former minister is saying the PM should be called in the court as a witness, the issue of including him in the ambit of Lokpal is important. The Prime Minister can put an end to this discussion by saying I am ready to come in its ambit," she said.

Swaraj insisted that while the Prime Minister himself says he wants to be included, nobody from the ruling party is paying heed to it.

"Our prime minister hardly speaks. And when he does you (Congress) don't listen to him. What he is saying is right, you should listen to him," Swaraj said. BJP wants the PM to be exempt on issues of national security and public order.

On judicial accountability, both the Congress and the BJP appeared to be of the view that a separate Bill can be brought.

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Image: Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj

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'Jagan was clean till he was in the Congress'

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BJP emphasised on the need for a National Judicial Commission for appointment of judges. Swaraj charged Congress with very often using the Central Bureau of Investigation to target opposition leaders and cited the names of L K Advani,

Yashwant Sinha, Sharad Yadav, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Jayalalithaa, among others.

She insisted that CBI should become an independent body. "The most recent case is that of Jagan Mohan Reddy who was clean till he was in the Congress but facing raids after raids by the CBI now," she said.

Both Swaraj and Dikshit maintained that the immunity enjoyed by MPs for their conduct inside the House should continue as supremacy of Parliament should remain

Swaraj said in the cash-for-query scam both Houses of Parliament had between them removed 11 MPs for taking a mere bribe of Rs 5,000 and this proves that the Parliament can deal with breach in conduct.

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Image: YSR Congress Party President Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy

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'Jan Lokpal Bill is not sacrosanct'

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However, outside the House MPs are ordinary citizens and after the Narasimha Rao case the Prevention of Corruption Act and other laws applied to them, she said.

The BJP wants the opposition to have a majority in the selection panel for choosing the Lokpal. Referring to the case of selection of P J Thomas as CVC which she had opposed, Swaraj said it had left her wiser and the government should not be in a majority in any such a panel.

There was some difference of opinion between the main opposition and the Congress on establishing a Lokayukta in states with the BJP saying Article 252 gives Centre the power to make an "enabling provision" while Dikshit said this should be left to the states.

Though the BJP gave its consent to inclusion of lower bureaucracy, it cautioned that Lokpal may become an "unwieldy body" and this provision may have a "psychological effect" on the low-level officials.

Dikshit said the Jan Lokpal Bill is "not sacrosanct" as the civil society members have themselves amended it "10-12 times". He argued that the government's views on Lokpal can also be incorporated in the law to be passed.

He took dig at Team Anna, saying they had clarified doubts on the Lokpal issue only two nights ago when the same could have been done much earlier.

Dikshit maintained that most differences can be sorted out through dialogue, including on the inclusion of PM, higher judiciary and provisions of drafts prepared by Aruna Roy,

Dalit Samaj and Jayaprakash Narayan of Andhra Pradesh.

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Image: Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit

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'This idiot box gives lot of trouble'

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Rewati Raman Singh (Samajwadi Party) demanded that corporate houses, companies, electronic and print media and civil societies should be brought within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.

He spoke in favour of including lower bureaucracy as well. As regards judiciary, he said, the government should expeditiously set up a Judicial Commission to take care of issues concerning appointment and conduct of judges.

The institution of Lokpal, Singh suggested should have adequate representation of minorities and weaker sections. Dara Singh Chauhan (Bahujan Samaj Party) too demanded adequate representation of weaker sections of society in the Lokpal.

People should also talk about "social corruption" which has been plaguing the country for centuries, he said. Referring to the issue of bringing the PM and the judiciary within the ambit of Lokpal, Chauhan said his party would extend support to the issue provided there is unanimity in the Lok Sabha.

Taking a dig at 24-hour TV news channels and coverage of Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption, Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-United) said, "is dibbe se bahut dikkat hai (This idiot box gives lot of trouble)."

Ridiculing the electronic media, Yadav said, news channels are so obsessed with Anna Hazare that they have stopped showing other important news especially floods in different parts of the country, particularly in eastern India.

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Image: Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav

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'In democracy people are the judges and not media'

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He wondered why the Congress MPs visit TV studios and participate in discussions. "The country is not run by discussions on television channels, but by Parliament," he said.

Yadav also criticised the remarks and gestures of film actor Om Puri and former police officer Kiran Bedi at Ramlila Maidan, saying that people should maintain decorum.

Puri and Bedi on Friday made fun of MPs and had ridiculed them at the venue of the protest. Yadav said Lok Sabha has expelled MPs accused of accepting bribe. He also recalled how former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost majority in the Lok Sabha just by one vote.

Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Trinmool Congress) supported the idea of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi providing constitutional status to the institution of Lokpal.

The crusade against corruption should be fought through Lokayukatas in states, he said.

T K S Elangovan (Dravida Munetra Kazhagam) attacked the media for its role in the episode saying it has turned the crusade against corruption into a fight against Parliament and Constitution.

"In democracy people are the judges and not media," he said, adding "We should not burden the Lokpal with cases pertaining to lower bureaucracy."

Image: Team Anna member Kiran Bedi

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