New Delhi: Government and the Opposition on Saturday appeared to be inclined to give consensual approval to fasting Anna Hazare’s three key demands amid keenness to end the impasse but most of the members emphasized the need for preserving Constitution’s sanctity and Parliament’s supremacy.
The much-awaited debate on Anna Hazare’s conditions took off in both Houses of Parliament with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statement in which he said the country was at cross-roads and asked lawmakers to give their serious and considered views on the “important” and “genuine” issues raised by Hazare.
• Timeline | Anna’s fast politics
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Social activist Anna Hazare greets his supporters during the twelfth day of his hunger strike in New Delhi on Saturday. (AP photo)
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He set the tone by urging members of the two Houses to consider the Gandhian’s three key demands on Lokpal Bill within Constitutional framework and by preserving Parliament’s supremacy.
These issues were (i) whether the jurisdiction of the Lokpal should cover all employees of the Central government, (ii) whether it will be applicable through the institution of the Lokayukta in all states, and (iii) whether the Lokpal should have the power to punish all those who violate the ‘grievance redressal mechanism’ to be put in place.
“In case a consensus emerges at the end of the discussions, the Standing Committee will, in the course of their deliberations, take into account their practicability, implementability and constitutionality.
“For, everything that we do must be consistent with the principles enshrined within our Constitutional framework,” Mukherjee said.
BJP gave “consent” to all the three issues under consideration of the two Houses.
As Hazare’s fast entered 12th day, Mukherjee said the situation was “moving out of hand” and “crisis” had been created as he asked lawmakers to “seize the moment and demonstrate the commitment” in dealing with corruption which is “gnawing at the vitals of our polity”.
In the Lok Sabha, leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj said, “History has given us an opportunity, which we should not miss. Let us not get into technicalities. We should give this country an effective, strong, free and impartial Lokpal.”
Her party colleague and leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said in the Upper House that BJP finds considerable merit in Hazare’s three demands, including covering entire bureaucracy and Citizens’ Charter for public grievances under Lokpal and setting up Lokayuktas in states.
On other contentious aspects like bringing Prime Minister under purview of Lokpal, Jaitley favoured it with the exceptions of certain areas like national security.
Jaitely found “greater merit” in having a Citizens’ Charter for redressal of grievances of the common man.
Responding to a specific enquiry by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, whether there can be a Central law for Lokayuktas in the states, Jaitley, an eminent lawyer, said there can be enabling laws. While there is merit in this, Lokayuktas should not be appointed by the Centre.
Senior BJP leader L. K. Advani felt that Saturday’s discussion would be fruitful only if Hazare heeds the appeals made by the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition, the Speaker and the House and breaks his fast.
Sandeep Dikshit (Cong) said the government was agreeable to reasonable changes on the contentious issues and most of it is “a matter of dialogue and design”. He said the debate should firstly limit its aim to reaching a consensus so that Anna can end his fast.