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Posted on 19 August 2011
CURRENT AFFAIRS  
LOKPAL BILL PROTEST

Congress begins bid to ‘liberate’ Anna from team of ‘neo-liberals’

PM calls Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan to initiate talks with Hazare, offer concessions on points of difference

Iftikhar Gilani and Arpit Parashar
New Delhi

'Team Anna Hazare' at a press conference in New Delhi.

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

The Congress is quietly working on “liberating” crusader Anna Hazare from under the influence of Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Prashant Bhushan. Congress leaders on Friday felt it was necessary to “liberate” Anna from “neo-liberals” who are taking decisions on his behalf “to bring the Bangkok-type of governance in the garb of the anti-corruption campaign.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday as part of the exercise to win over Hazare for a climbdown on the Jan Lokpal Bill his team is harping upon.

Hazare’s nephew runs an NGO in Maharashtra and Chavan has been asked to talk on the crusader through him to see reason. While his group is adamant on bringing the Prime Minister and high judiciary within the Lokpal’s ambit, a feeler has been sent out to Anna through his nephew that the Lokpal can be given access to files in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to eschew his fear that all probes against ministers would be stuck if they lead to the role played by the PM.

Another point on which Team Anna has differences with the government is on bringing the judiciary within the ambit of the Lokpal. Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal has indicated that the civil society members may not insist on the judiciary being brought under the ambit of the Lokpal if the government brings a strong and effective Judicial Accountability Bill but insisted that the Prime Minister has to be covered by the Lokpal Bill, adding that there can be no compromise on the issue.

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A strong view in the Congress is that the movement being built up by Team Anna depends entirely on the credibility of the crusader while others in it do not have any public respectability to sway the masses. Therefore, if Hazare is convinced of the government’s sincerity in fighting corruption, it will be difficult for his group to get any support for the aggressive stand. The government is also trying to win over support of the Opposition by insisting that the conduct of the MPs in Parliament or outside should not be brought within the ombudsman’s ambit as it would impair their independent functioning and tell upon the Parliamentary democracy.

Sources also add that the government is flexible and open on allowing the conduct of MPs outside the Parliament be kept under Lokpal’s ambit but not their conduct in the Parliament. The government wants that civil society give up its demand of holding Parliamentary debate on the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill. BJP leader Varun Gandhi’s move to present the Jan Lokpal Bill as a Private Member’s Bill might be supported by the government to counter this, as the majority in the House is in favour of the government.

The government is on the defensive after it was forced into a negotiated settlement with an adamant Anna Hazare in the face of stinging criticism from the Opposition and growing public support for the anti-corruption crusade.

HITCH IN ANNA-LILA AS DELHI POLICE PUTS MCD IN A FIX

Meanwhile, Delhi Police finds itself in a piquant embarrassment of allowing ‘India Against Corruption’ of Team Anna to carry on the protest fast for a strong Lokpal Bill up to September 2 at the Ramlila Ground, without checking that the place was already booked by another organisation for a rally on September 1. The deal was struck past midnight and it was not possible to check with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) about availability of the ground. It came as a surprise even to the MCD as the Team Anna has booked the ground only up to August 31. Team Anna swung into action on Thursday on advice from the BJP-ruled municipal corporation to better negotiate with the Allahabad-based Bharat Mukti Morcha that has booked the ground on September 1 for a rally in support of a caste census. The Morcha’s convener JS Kashyap, however, showed reluctance to shift the rally’s venue or date, claiming that his organisation has already mobilised around one lakh people from across the country, though he told the negotiators that he is also with Anna Hazare on fight against corruption. “Anna Hazare is fighting for a good cause and we are also doing the same for a large section of the country. I told them that let’s support each other and after our rally we will be with them.” According to MCD sources, there is no booking of the ground from September 2 to 8 and hence it can be given to Team Anna if it makes a deal with the OBC Morcha, but not beyond that as the Ramlila Committee takes it over for a month from September 9 for the annual Ramlila plays.

Iftikhar Gilani is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com
iftikhar@tehelka.com

Arpit Parashar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
arpit.parashar@tehelka.com

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Posted on 19 August 2011
 

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