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EXPLAINED: How our MPs took Team Anna for a ride

Last updated on: August 28, 2011 01:17 IST

How our MPs took Team Anna for a ride

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In this Team Anna versus Parliament tussle, Parliamentarians have registered a considerable victory, believes Sheela Bhatt

The historic city of New Delhi has witnessed, since hundreds of years, many bloody wars, battles and deceptions.
 
In the city where, for the sake of power, kings have been murdered by their own sons, Anna Hazare was taken for a ride by the Indian Parliament. 
Already, Indians are celebrating the "victory of the people". But it's too early to celebrate.
 
The battle for Jan Lokpal bill has just begun. There is no guarantee at all, as on today, if it will be passed anytime soon. It's even possible that the scope of the Jan Lokpal bill debate may broaden and the issue may continue to be debated even next year. The Parliament has just expressed its intent and there are dozens of past examples where it has expressed such grand wishes.

Two decades ago, the Indian Parliament had also expressed its desire to get back Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.


Image: Anna Hazare's supporters at Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
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They wanted to 'get rid of Anna's fast'

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It was indeed interesting to see people -- who had serious misgivings about Hazare, who had dubbed his strategy of fasting as merely a "blackmailing tactic" and who thought that the corporate mafia was funding Team Anna --  declare tonight,  "Anna Hazare and the Indian democracy has won."

They were in fact celebrating the prospect of closing the 'show' once Hazare ends his fast at 10 am on Sunday at Ramlila Maidan; the 'show' which had humiliated these powerful men.
 
Those few people, who had witnessed from close quarters what happened inside both the Houses, can say with confidence that the focus of our 'honourable MPs' was not the Lokpal bill. All of them, together, wanted to 'get rid of Anna's fast' and wanted an immediate end to the television broadcast of all the tamasha going on at Ramlila Maidan.

Those of us who know even a little about how Lok Sabha works, how bills are moved, how they are debated, how different sections are raised and used to serve one's political point can say with assurance that without the help of non-Congress political parties, the government could not have achieved what it claims as a "successful move" -- cajoling Hazare to end his fast.


Image: Anna Hazare
Photographs: Reuters
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The egos of India's lawmakers were hurt

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The 'sense of House' was passed by the thumping of desks in less than a minute.
 
One can smell murky intentions behind this hasty move, to put an end to Hazare's 'act' that had challenged the parliamentary system. The egos of India's lawmakers were hurt so badly in the last few days by this that the 'sense of House' had become necessary.  
 
Anna Hazare had gone on an indefinite fast to demand the Jan Lokpal bill. He had urged the government to pass the bill by August 31, declaring that he won't end his fast till the bill becomes a reality. 

Today, he has declared that he will end his fast. The Jan Lokpal bill is far from becoming a reality.

This is not to suggest that a 74-year-old man should continue his fast. There are other methods to put pressure on the government. But the fact remains that the immense effort put in by Team Anna all over the country has not achieved its stated goal, even partially. 


Image: A supporter of Anna Hazare at Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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Did Hazare or his team get anything substantial?

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His supporters might claim that it was their strategy to put forward the maximum demands possible at the very beginning so that the government would be forced to concede to at least lesser demands.

But did Hazare or his team get anything substantial from the government? The answer is no.
 
We must hasten to add that Hazare, personally, has been successful. He has emerged as a symbol of people's aspirations. He has made people talk about corruption. He has attracted the youth and the middle class. He has kept the agitation non-violent. He has gone without food for days at such an advanced age for the sake of the ordinary men and women of India. It's a huge ethical victory for him, but not a comprehensive one.

In this Team Anna versus Parliament tussle, Parliamentarians have registered a considerable victory. They got united and they acted cleverly to save the 'system'.


Image: At Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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Team Anna has not got anything substantial

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Team Anna can take consolation from the fact that in the process, these MPs have lost face. Since the last few days, powerful ministers have appeared insignificant and ministers seemed to be in the danger of losing their VIP status in the society. The charm of being in power had faded for them because at Ramlila Maidan, they were being lampooned.
 
But there is no doubt that Team Anna has not got anything substantial. Anna Hazare fasted for 12 days. The net result is that now, after receiving the letter of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that was delivered to him on Saturday evening, he will appear before the Standing Committee of Parliament.

Today, without going on fast for 12 days, activists Aruna Roy and Dr Jaiprakash Narayan got the same privilege!

Read carefully the 'sense of House' that Anna Hazare got.
 
It said, "This House agrees in principle on the following issues (i) Citizen Charter, (ii) Lower bureaucracy to be under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism and (iii) establishment of Lok Ayuktas in the states."


Image: Supporters of Anna Hazare at Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
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Lokpal talks had collapsed over 7 issues

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"And further resolves to transmit the proceedings to the department-related Standing Committee for its perusal while formulating its recommendations for a Lokpal Bill."

These three elements of the 'sense of the House' were the issues raised by Hazare, who wanted them to be incorporated in the Lokpal Bill. But they are not binding on the Standing Committee.

The most important issue every Indian who supported Hazare should know is that the joint drafting committee on Lokpal bill, comprising legislators and civil society members, had serious differences on seven issues.

The government had disagreed with Team Anna on the issue of having the prime minister, the judiciary and MPs under the purview of the Lokpal. Government's representatives had also disagreed on the issue of including the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal.


Image: Supporters of Anna Hazare at Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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Government is not in agreement with Team Anna

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Team Anna wanted state Lokayuktas included in the central list and the Citizen Charter in all government offices for fixing a time-frame for civic services.

Hazare had demanded that the anti-corruption wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation should come under the Lokpal's purview.
 
After disagreeing on these seven issues, talks among activists and politicians in the joint drafting committee had collapsed. Hazare had then declared that he will go on a fast to press for his demands.

So much has happened in India after Hazare's fast began on August 16. But as curtains come down on the 'show' at Ramlila Maidan, it's clear that the government is neither in agreement with Team Anna on all these contentious issues nor has it given any promise to Parliament that it will agree with the team, eventually.


Image: Hazare's supporters at Ralegan Siddhi
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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The government divided Team Anna

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If the government was never going to give up on these contentious issues, what was the need to hold the fast, asked a Cabinet minister who was one of the negotiators of the government team that had dealt with Team Anna.

Hazare's fast has ended, maybe because the agitation was not sustainable for Team Anna any longer and maybe because it was extremely risky to handle such a large crowd in such a volatile situation. But the battle for Jan Lokpal may not end any time soon.

The government has won today by 'respecting' Anna Hazare and gifting him 'sense of House', but the government didn't heed any demands about the Jan Lokpal bill put forward by his aides Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan. They divided Team Anna while dealing with it and succeeded.


Image: Hazare's supporters at Ramlila Maidan
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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