An angry Opposition spoke in one voice while attacking the government for arresting social activist Anna Hazare on Tuesday morning even before he had reached the venue of his proposed fast for a stronger Lokpal Bill, while also noting that the government had earlier gone all out to woo Mr Hazare and his group without bothering to consult other political parties on what shape the Lokpal Bill would take.
Earlier, in identical statements in both Houses of Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday that “the path he (Hazare) has chosen to impose his draft of a bill upon Parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our democracy”. Dr Singh went on to add: “Those who believe their voice and their voice alone represents the will of 1.2 billion people should reflect deeply on that position. They must allow the elected representatives of the people in Parliament to do the job they were elected for.”
What also came through very clearly on Wednesday was the MPs’ desire, across party lines, to ensure that the power to legislate does not slip out of their hands. So even while the Opposition went for the government’s jugular over Mr Hazare’s arrest on Tuesday amid uproarious scenes, by the evening it was clear that as far as the Lokpal Bill was concerned, Parliament will hold sway.
The Prime Minister maintained that the government did not seek any “confrontation” with any section of society, and said it was its “bounden duty” to “maintain peace and tranquillity” when some sections “deliberately challenge the authority of the government and the prerogative of Parliament”.
This was also made clear by home minister P. Chidambaram, who replied to the discussion on the PM’s statement on Mr Hazare’s arrest, where he detailed the sequence of developments leading up to the arrest on Tuesday.
Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, during an intervention in the debate in the Lok Sabha, accused the government of “creating an Emergency-like situation”. He added: “Yesterday’s incident raise grave concerns in our minds. We are reminded of what happened after the Emergency was imposed in 1975.”
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of trying to take shelter behind people in uniform. He accused the government of showing the “arrogance of power” and urged Dr Singh to demonstrate “political will” in fighting corruption and to take “bold decisions”. The Left parties said the UPA government was suffering a credibility crisis and described Mr Hazare’s arrest as a blatant assault on the democratic rights of citizens.
Accusing the government of “unleashing a new political idiom” against those fighting corruption, Mr Jaitley, in a reference to the personal attack made on Mr Hazare by Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari on Sunday, said: “Political spokesmen are being used literally as hitmen.” He asked: “Is that the level to which you have brought the level of political discourse? Smugness, which has become a character of this government, arrogance, which has become a character of this government, is not the way to fight corruption.”
Mr Jaitley said: “Your advisers let you down. Your agencies let you down… You are now in a trap.” He added: “I think it is time for the PM to stand up and take more decisions. He must go to the root of this issue as to why there’s a certain loss of confidence in his government.”
Initiating the discussion in the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj remarked: “This government is not only corrupt, but also repressive. Corruption is a big issue, and (because of) the way you have acted, the people are on the streets.”
“The government is shifting the responsibility from its shoulders to that of the Delhi police commissioner,” Ms Swaraj said, adding that the attitude and the conduct of the government inside and outside Parliament was beyond comprehension. Taking a swipe at the government for ignoring the Opposition and initiating a dialogue with Team Anna initially, Ms Swaraj asked rhetorically: “Who set aside the entire Opposition and talked only to Team Anna?”
But it was JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav who held the House in thrall with his digs at the government. He noted how Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, had gone on fast a number of times, and remarked: “If your government had been there, Gandhi would not have been made.” he also took a swipe at HRD and communications minister Kapil Sibal, who was present in the House, over his being in charge of “several portfolios”, one of them being the “Anna portfolio”. In yet another dig at the government, Mr Yadav said “this government is being run by English-speaking ministers”, saying that for instance when Mr Chidambaram was speaking, “aisa lagta hai koi machine bol rahi hai”.
Dr Singh’s views were echoed by Mr Chidambaram in his reply to the nearly four-hour debate in the Lok Sabha. The home minister said: “Do not diminish the sovereign right of Parliament to make laws… People have the right to vote us in and out of Parliament, but no right to make a law. That right has been given to us by the people.”
Mr Chidambaram added: “We will deal with the Hazare issue politically and administratively, fairly and justly, and dispassionately and without any bias.” Asian Age