At 74, Anna Hazare is busy with his road show. He is spending his time meeting one political party after another. His calling card: his team’s version of the Lokpal Bill, intended to check corruption among politicians, and rejected as impractical by the government which has its own draft of the same bill.
Mr Hazare, the face of the India Against Corruption campaign initiated by a group of activists, will meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi at 4 pm today, possibly the most crucial pit-stop before Sunday. That’s when the government has invited Opposition parties to a discussion on the conflicting versions of the Lokpal Bill, one prepared by five ministers and the other by five activists led by Mr Hazare.
In the course of his campaign for the Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare wrote several letters to Sonia Gandhi. In these letters, he reacted sharply to Congress leaders accusing him of having links with the RSS and the BJP. He wrote to Sonia Gandhi that he was hurt by Congress leaders’ “smear campaign” and that it was a conspiracy to defame him. In another letter, he also urged Sonia Gandhi to discuss the Lokpal draft in the National Advisory Council.
In her reply to Anna, Sonia Gandhi said he should not doubt her commitment to fight corruption. She also said she strongly believed in the institution of Lokpal and that Lokpal Bill is very much on NAC agenda.
Anna also met with senior BJP leaders like LK Advani, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi on Friday morning. On Thursday, he met with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
After its briefing by Mr Hazare on Friday, the BJP said that it is in favour of a strong and effective Lokpal (Ombudsman). But the party has yet to decide on whether it will attend the all-party meeting on Sunday. Speaking to NDTV on Thursday, party president Nitin Gadkari said, “The NDA will meet and take a decision on whether to attend.” He said that the government should have reached out to include the Opposition when it set up the committee to draft the Bill. “The UPA wants us to attend the all-party meeting because now it needs our help,” he said.
Predictably, and most likely as intended, that remark drew an acerbic response from the Congress. Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said on Friday evening that the BJP has not offered any suggestions on the Lokpal Bill and has taken no clear stand on its main features.
As the major Opposition party, the BJP has also yet to publicly state its stand on the headline of the Lokpal controversy – whether the new law against corruption should cover the Prime Minister’s office. An essential, says Anna; an impossibility, retaliates the government. Asked why the BJP had not spelt out its own position, Mr. Gadkari said, “We are yet to take a decision on this. Our committee is studying the proposals and we will respond in Parliament. NDTV