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READ: Jaya Jaitly's open letter to Anna Hazare

Last updated on: August 19, 2011 20:47 IST

READ: Jaya Jaitly's open letter to Anna Hazare

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Jaya Jaitly

Annasaheb, I have known of your good work in Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra for the past 30 years. Most Maharashtrians know you well, but this generation of youth has not been fed much information of 'good works' by the media.

One has the utmost respect for Gandhians, who still try to live by those principles.

Being one such person, you, today lead the movement that first brought a handful of Magsaysay Award winners together to support Kiran Bedi's legitimate, but unsuccessful mission to be appointed Chief Information Commissioner in the interest of Right To Information activists.

It has now become a movement, fuelled by pent up anger about corruption. Obviously, it is not that there was no corruption earlier, but the very extent and brazenness of corruption these days, and the pressure of an angry public along with information pushed out by the media, finally exploded.

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Image: Former president of the Samata Party Jaya Jaitly

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Can your team show some flexibility too?

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However, there are two issues that need to be highlighted: Your organising group should understand that it was the government's ineptness from day one, in the manner of engagement with you and yoga guru Baba Ramdev on how to tackle rampant corruption that added to public indignation.

Until then, people were mostly spectators. More importantly, people from all walks of life want convincing ways -- any kind of way at all -- to end corruption.

As the government needs to listen to what the common man has to say, you too need to listen to a crucial aspect of the message: they are not fighting in support of your specific Jan Lokpal Bill; they are supporting your fight against corruption.

One does not automatically translate into the other. May I humbly suggest, that to make the government more flexible, your team show some flexibility too?

Your spokespersons need to explain why they cannot pressure individual members of Parliament further, as well as political parties and the Parliamentary standing committee, to persuade them to adopt your propositions and place amendments accordingly.

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Image: Some members of Team Anna: (from right) Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh

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Is a fast to gather crowds more important than continuing meetings?

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It is wrong to arrogate to yourselves the power of presuming your bill is the best solution and your methodology the only one leading to a satisfactory result.

You need to explain whether a fast to gather crowds is more important than continuing meetings with those who represent the political system across the board to pave the way forward. If your group sets itself up as superior to any politician or party, you may go down the wrong road.

Everyone wants a strong Lokpal Bill. Both drafts (government and the joint drafting committee versions) have many flaws, and need wider consultation with other eminent persons/organisations who have addressed this problem and can suggest amendments.

The collective ego and obstinacy of your 'Team Anna' should not get in the way of creating a draft that has been further modified by an additional set of wise minds with as much integrity.

They can be from among the judiciary (if advocate Prashant Bhushan will permit), the bureaucracy (if Kiran Bedi will permit) other eminent public activists (if Arvind Kejriwal will permit) and political party representatives (if the entire team permits).

Currently, your moves seem to be more populist than reasonable, while the governments' are more bureaucratic than political. Neither will get us anywhere.

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Image: Hazare (C, wearing white cap) waves from a vehicle after he left Tihar jail in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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'Everyone has a voice in a democracy'

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Clearly, there is no way the Jan Lokpal Bill is going to take the place of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Vigilance Commissioner and other such agencies. Is your team not prepared to accept an option of asking for a totally-independent CVC and CBI, apart from a modified but effective bill?

Why not do credible (even radical) things with institutions we already have rather than propose an outfit that appears to be a non-workable monster. If the public in support of your movement is not given options, it will be fooled into supporting your bill blindly. That is misleading, unfair, and arrogant.

Please forgive me for presuming to offer some suggestions, but I am not prepared to deify anyone, and everyone has a voice in a democracy.

I am exercising mine; based on some aspects that have troubled me from the day your action began at Jantar Mantar.

There is a major question of inclusiveness, acceptability and credibility not being addressed here. I do not mean the credibility of your group or the government, but the credibility of those like myself, who have fought corruption all my life from inside a political party and outside through demonstrations, campaigns etc, for the past 25 years.

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Image: Supporters of Anna Hazare hold his portraits during a rally against corruption
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters
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'Not allowing Michael Fernandes on the dias was not very Gandhian'

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Excuse me for personalising this, but it is merely as an example of what many honest political activists are feeling. Being in politics does not automatically mean one is dishonest.

Take my instance: I have been entangled by the Congress/United Progressive Alliance government in a bogus corruption case in which the first hearing is still pending in a lower court for the past five years.

The so-called 'incident' took place 11 years ago. I thought of joining your platform at Jantar Mantar but saw what you did to senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Uma Bharti and others.

Michael Fernandes, brother of erstwhile Defence Minister George Fernandes, whom you knew well, was not allowed on your platform in Bangalore, despite the known integrity of the Fernandes family.

He is a 76-year-old former legislator, who still uses an auto rickshaw or the metro while moving about. He fasted along with your group, but was not welcomed on the platform, although a well-known liquor company was distributing free mineral water there.

Not terribly Gandhian, I would say.

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Image: Social activist Anna Hazare
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
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'The Congress mounted a dirty campaign to vilify George '

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If the Maharashtra government inquiry held to examine your accounts had carried on interminably, would you have allowed yourself to be considered corrupt till cleared?

Surely you know from your very recent experience the Congress tries to silence honest people by giving them a 'tainted' label. That is why so many whistleblowers have a tough time.

George Fernandes handed over the vetting of all defence deals from Rajiv Gandhi's time to his own as defence minister to the Comptroller and Auditor General and Central Vigilance Commission. The scared Congress mounted a dirty campaign to vilify him, of which I too became a victim.

The Congress likes to use his name in a derogatory manner even today, though he is incapacitated with a serious ailment and does not know what is going on.

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Image: Erstwhile Defence Minister George Fernandes
Photographs: Ravi S Sahani/Reuters
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How many from your crowd have never given or taken a bribe?

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They do it out of loyalty to their party president who led the campaign against him. Your entire team has taken part in programmes in support of people who assisted the Congress in painting us corrupt.

Yet, sadly, you wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi (an unexamined part of Bofors history) asking for fair treatment not too long ago.

Today, I would like to be at the forefront of your campaign against corruption, but you would shun those of us who carry such bogus taints.

Are you going to presume that all those accused by the Congress of corruption are indeed so? How sure are you of the credentials of those who form your crowds? How many of them have never given or taken a bribe? Can you certify to their integrity? Is it necessary at all? If this is the attitude now, how will the Jan Lokpal administrators as proposed by you be free of bias?

Your system of shunning people who are in political life from your stage, and accusing all politicians in Parliament of not wanting to accept your bill alone is a dangerous form of de-politicisation.

A non-political prime minister, and a non-political Sonia Gandhi, dealing with anti-politician groups like yours may leave an ugly undemocratic land for vested interests to inhabit.

Yours, with sincerity and respect

Jaya Jaitly

The writer is a former president of the Samata Party


Image: Congress President Sonia Gandhi

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