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'Anna and I are fighting for the same things, differ only in details'

August 26, 2011 16:44 IST

Lok Satta Party president Dr Jayaprakash Narayan may have his differences with Anna Hazare over the Lokpal Bill, but he salutes the Gandhian's efforts to bring the youth and the middle class to the forefront of the anti-corruption movement, reports Sheela Bhatt

While agreeing to give due consideration to Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had said that there were other ideas that also needed to be looked at. "There is Dr Jayaprakash Narayan's group, which has produced a bill; there are ideas which have been put down on paper by Shrimati Aruna Roy. All these matters can be discussed, debated and a consensus can be built up in the Standing Committee," he said.

But, Dr Narayan has not produced a bill, as the PM had claimed in his Lok Sabha speech on Thursday. In fact, he has recommended elaborate and well-thought-out amendments to the government's version of the Lokpal Bill. These amendments were suggested after taking into consideration opinions and reservations of luminaries from the civil society and legal experts across the country.

Talking exclusively to on the Hazare movement, Dr Narayan said, "What Anna Hazare has done is very important. He has brought the youth and middle class of the country to the forefront in our fight against corruption. Now, we must challenge them for a long-term political engagement. On specifics, we (Hazare and me) may differ broadly, but I appreciate that he has got the youth and middle class involved in this fight."

Narayan thinks that the Hazare agitation has helped the country. Elaborating, he said, "But we must understand that institution-building is very difficult. It requires a careful approach. When a new institution is designed, it requires maturity and expertise."

"Today, people are not coming forward to back a particular section of the bill. People are coming forward to fight against corruption. We must appreciate that. The people are enthused and we must not look at it as an endorsement for a particular provision of the Jan Lokpal Bill. We are fighting for the same things. We differ only as far as the details are concerned, that's all," added Dr Narayan.

Debating the major differences over the Jan Lokpal Bill, he said, "There must not be a monolithic institution covering everybody. We differ on that point from the Jan Lokpal Bill. From the prime minister to the clerk, all should not come under one institution. We want a local ombudsman at lower levels. To have all public servants under one Lokpal is a fundamentally wrong approach."

Dr Narayan said, "On April 24, we had convened a meeting in New Delhi which was attended by Team Anna, former chief justices, prominent lawyers and many experts. We had arrived at a consensus on almost all the issues. We are saying that if the Lokpal is given too much power it will delay justice, can create inefficiency and even corruption and it can defeat the purpose of the bill. It may become counter-productive."

"If bureaucrats and politicians are taken care of, then the country will be cleaner. Let us catch the big fish," he added.

Justice MN Venkatachaliah and Justice JS Verma, former chief justices of India, Justice Santosh Hegde, former Supreme Court judge and Karnataka Lokayukta, Justice Rajindar Sachar, former chief justice of the Delhi high court, N Gopalaswami, former chief election commissioner of India, Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal, former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi, noted lawyer and civil rights activist Prashant Bhushan and his father Shanti Bhushan and KN Govindacharya, a former Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary known for his proximity to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attended the meeting convened on April 24 by Dr Narayan.

Dr Narayan said, "We should have a series of institutions across the board. Like, the Central Vigilance Commission is a functioning constitutional authority and we must not destroy it. We should strengthen it."

According to him, a robust Lokpal Bill will emerge out of the current turmoil. "But, it won't be a panacea for all ills. In a democracy, some political class will resist change but we have to work for it, which is a long-drawn-out process," he said.

"If the Lokpal, Lokayukta and local ombudsman work together, then the average people will be able to use that as a tool to fight corruption locally. It's a small beginning but it will make a difference. The institution will take time to be effective but, in few months time, you will see the difference," he added.

Dr Narayan heads Lok Satta, a political party in Andhra Pradesh. He was a physician who took the Indian Administrative Service exam after the Emergency and failure of the Janata experiment and emerged a topper. He served as an IAS officer for 16 years and earned a reputation as a creative public servant.

As collector of Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh, he helped create a record wherein 2,00,000 acres of land was irrigated. He has been spearheading a fight against corruption for the last 15 years. There are no seminars or serious attempts in the country to fight corruption with which he has not been involved.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi