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How our netas killed 4 birds with one shot

Last updated on: December 18, 2013 13:44 IST

How our netas killed 4 birds with one shot

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Anita Katyal

The passage of the historic Lokpal Bill by Rajya Sabha on Tuesday was celebrated by the entire political class but for reasons other than those stated publicly.

The rare show of unanimity by parties witnessed in the Upper House was certainly not driven by a genuine commitment to an anti-corruption legislation.

The real objective was to co-op anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare, drive a wedge between Anna and his one-time protege, Aam Admi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal, blunt the latter’s campaign for AAP’s version of the Jan Lokpal Bill and claim credit for having taken this historic step.

“The real purpose of rushing through with this Bill was to puncture Kejriwal,” a senior BJP leader told rediff.com, a view shared by his colleagues across the political spectrum.

Leaders of different political parties privately admitted that if Kejriwal continues to oppose the Bill even after Hazare has endorsed it, the AAP leader will be seen to be “petulant, inflexible and unreasonable” while his proposed campaign against the UPA government’s version of the Bill will lose its earlier sting.

If the political parties had their way, the Lokpal Bill would have languished like its earlier avatars, but it was the spectacular debut by the Kejriwal-led AAP in the recent Delhi assembly polls which spurred them into action. 

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Anita Katyal

In the normal course, the BJP would have launched an all-out offensive against the Congress-led UPA government after its stunning victory in the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh elections.

However, its celebrations were cut short by AAP which denied the BJP a chance to form a government in Delhi.

Consequently, a worried BJP made common cause with the Congress. Both parties sunk their differences and worked together to pass the long-pending Lokpal Bill.

While the Congress has reasons to worry after its rout in the assembly polls, the Delhi verdict is a matter of concern for the BJP.

The saffron party has been hoping to ride to power in next year’s Lok Sabha polls with the support of the urban youth and middle classes who have taken a real shine to its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

But there is a growing fear in the BJP that if Kejriwal’s AAP is able to make the same impact in other urban centres in the 2014 general election, this support base could well be dented.

Realising that AAP has the potential to hurt its future electoral prospects, the political class promptly joined forces to take on the new party. 

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Anita Katyal

As part of this strategy, the Lokpal Bill was resurrected while back-channel talks were initiated with Hazare to get him on board since he was widely perceived to be the face of the anti-corruption movement which shook Delhi two years ago.

The purpose of this exercise was to win over Anna Hazare by promising to pass the Lokpal Bill and to persuade him to endorse it.

In other words, the basic purpose was to isolate Kejriwal who has rejected the government’s Lokpal Bill, describing it as “jokepal.”

The government appears to have succeeded in this effort as Kejriwal’s colleagues from the old movement, like Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde, have openly supported the official Bill.

Other civil rights activists like Aruna Roy and Shekhar Singh, have also conveyed their satisfaction with the government’s legislation.

It was, therefore, not surprising that political leaders of all hues drew immense satisfaction from the Anna-Kejriwal public spat. Having been at the receiving end of the anti-corruption protests, the Congress was particularly relieved that it had succeeded in weaning away Hazare from Kejriwal.

It also attempted to use this opportunity to demonstrate its sincerity in combating corruption by pointing out how the UPA government went out of its way to build a consensus on this far-reaching Bill.

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Anita Katyal

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi sought to claim political ownership of this legislation when he addressed a rare press conference last Saturday to appeal to all political parties to support the government in the passage of the Lokpal Bill.

He went a step further by responding to Hazare’s letter, assuring him of the government’s commitment to the Bill.

Earlier, Hazare had written to Rahul Gandhi welcoming the government’s move to bring the Lokpal Bill and requested him to ensure that the select committee’s recommendations were incorporated in it.

Congress leaders admitted that the passage of the Lokpal Bill is unlikely to change the public mood in its favour but felt the party could not go back on it either.

“We may not make any political gains from this move, but the party had nothing to lose either,” a Congress leader told rediff.com.

Most importantly, he pointed out, it had provided a way out for Hazare and the Congress.

“Both sides were looking for an honourable face saver and they finally got one,” he added.




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