With the all-party meeting on the Lokpal Bill turning into a game of one-upmanship, the BJP on Friday questioned the relevance of its attending such a discourse when the UPA government had not even circulated the base paper.
While giving social activist Anna Hazare and his team members a patient hearing and discussing the pros and cons of their version of the Lokpal Bill, the BJP leadership did not show any eagerness about attending the all-party meeting.
A decision will be taken at a meeting of the NDA to be held at L.K. Advani’s residence on Saturday. It is expected to be attended by leaders of the Janata Dal (United), the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena.
Team Anna will end its exercise of meeting major political leaders after calling on Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday.
BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said it was the first time the government had issued an invitation to an all-party meeting without an agenda and the base paper. “We are not going there to have tea but for a serious discussion. But discuss what when the draft Lokpal Bill has not been made available?”
BJP sources accused the government of trying to fire on the shoulders of other parties and seeking to elicit their opinion without making its stand clear on the contentious issue that stalled the Joint Drafting Committee from arriving at consensus.
The CPI too said the decision on its participation at the all-party meeting would be taken at the party level. It also objected to the government stand and the two drafts.
Mr. Prasad charged that the intentions of the government were suspect as it had even presented an ad hoc or tentative draft of the Bill, particularly because its Ministers Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram had made it clear that their version of the Bill presented before the draft committee was not that of the government.
While refusing to spell out the BJP’s stand on the Lokpal issue, Mr. Prasad, however, said the party stood for a credible and effective Lokpal. It would enunciate its detailed view on various aspects of the Bill very soon.
It was a full battery of BJP leaders, who had a discussion close to two hours with Team Anna. Apart from Mr. Advani and Mr. Prasad, those present were Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Murli Manohar Joshi, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Rajnath Singh, S.S. Ahluwalia, Ananth Kumar, Ramlal and Jaswant Singh. Mr. Hazare was assisted by Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, among others.
Both sides described the meeting as purposeful. Mr. Prasad said there were many areas of convergence and that Team Anna appreciated their views on several issues. On a few issues, the civil society members decided to get back to the BJP with their views.
Mr. Prasad underlined that Team Anna made it clear that it respected the political process and upheld the supremacy of Parliament, and that the government had rejected its proposal to have members of the Opposition parties on the drafting panel.
Regarding Team Anna’s suggestion for a single law to cover both the Central government and the States, the BJP stressed that several topics such as law and order were State subjects and it was against any structure that would impinge on the basic federal structure.
Mr. Prasad cautioned against placing an instrument in the hands of the Union government to misuse it to arm-twist State governments headed by Opposition parties.
On accountability of MPs, the BJP said it was also imperative to allow them to work as parliamentarians without fear, intimidation or threat and they should be free to express their views and discuss issues on all aspects.
Mr. Prasad said the BJP stood for the independence of the judiciary and that more than the process of appointment the need was to ensure that honesty, integrity and dedication were the criteria that should characterise the chosen man.
Mr. Hazare described as good and fruitful his meeting with the BJP top brass and said he and his team members received good guidance on how the Bill should be.
Ms. Bedi said the challenge would be to have the right members in the Lokpal with qualities of honesty, integrity and capability. The BJP leaders asked several technical questions, Mr. Kejriwal said. Hindu