Anna plays hardball
Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare took the government by surprise on Sunday, demanding that the proceedings of the joint committee drafting the Lokpal Bill be videographed. He said the entire procedure should be made public to ensure complete transparency. Buoyed by the success of his fast-unto- death, which forced the government to accept all his major demands, the veteran Gandhian firmly ruled out changing any of his five nominees in the joint panel with the government.
He also rejected yoga guru Baba Ramdev's allegation of nepotism following the inclusion of former law minister Shanti Bhushan and his lawyer son Prashant Bhushan in the committee.
A day after he ended his indefinite fast, Hazare said as the joint committee of ministers and civil society representatives had been officially notified, he and his colleagues would focus on how to draft a "strong and effective" law.
Hazare said the committee would start its work from April 16.
"The entire process should be videographed so that people can see who is saying what. There will be nothing to hide."
The salvo caught the government unawares.
"Till now, even proceedings of parliamentary committees are held behind closed doors. This is a completely new development," said a senior minister.
The government, however, was yet to officially receive any communication from Hazare's team on the issue.
Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the joint panel confirmed that a formal proposal in this regard would soon be sent to the government.
Reacting to criticism that he had resorted to political blackmail to get the government to accept his demand for a joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill, he said, "I will continue to do this blackmail till my last breath for the good of the people. I am doing this for the country's benefit."
Asked whether the activists would accept any amendments in the draft bill proposed by the joint committee, Hazare said they would be open to positive amendments.
"If there is a good suggestion, we will accept. We are seeking people's views on the provisions of the bill. We would even accept Parliament making a good amendment to improve the bill," he said.