Sonia says no; anna moves to nitish
New Delhi July 1:
Being denied a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare on Thursday met Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to seek his support on the civil society’s version of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which has been mired with disagreements within the panel that drafted it.
Hazare, along with civil society members Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, met Kumar in New Delhi, hours after his meeting with Gandhi was postponed due to her busy schedule. “Nitish Kumar is a man whose heart beats for people at the grassroots. He too wants a strong Jan Lokpal Bill that will tackle corruption in India,” Hazare said addressing a press conference.
"The entire bureaucracy should be brought under the Lokpal, and that’s what he has done in a time bound programme. Today, he is Bihar's chief minister, but his real roots lies in being an activist," said Hazare. Meanwhile, Kumar said he will study Team Anna’s version of the Lokpal draft. "I had discussions today with Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi who told me all about their draft. I will study it all and also discuss it within our party and supporting parties," the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader told reporters.
After the meeting, Bedi tweeted: “Team Janlokpal led by Anna met CM bihar. He not only supports d key issues but also wants an effective Lokayukt in bihar This is leadership.” “Mr Nitish kumar also said UPA Govt is already engaging with civil society thru NAC but in a Lab conditions. IAC movement is in open format,” Bedi posted on micro-blogging site Twitter. “Mr Nitish kumar further said UPA Govt is already engaging with civil society thru NAC in a Lab conditions. IAC movement is in open format,” she said.
Later on Thursday, Hazare also met Communist Party of India (CPI) leader A B Bardhan to seek his support. Earlier the day, a meeting between Hazare and Sonia Gandhi did not take place though there were reports earlier that the Gandhian activist would meet Sonia to seek her support on the Jan Lokpal Bill. While media is calling it a snub from Sonia Gandhi, activists said they are still waiting to hear from her office. Congress party has made its stand clear on the Bill though and has supported the draft of the government group led by its ministers.
The joint-committee of five ministers and five activists has come up with two separate drafts of the Lokpal bill after key differences emerged between the two sides. Unless the differences are sorted out, it is unlikely that the bill will be enacted any time soon. Hazare was expected to try and convince Sonia Gandhi to allow the Prime Minister’s office to fall under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal (Ombudsman) - one of the crucial differences that has emerged between the activists and ministers.
While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that he himself does not have any problem to let his office come under the Lokpal, certain ministers in his cabinet feel that this would undermine the administration. Hazare and his followers, better known as ‘Team Anna’, have been meeting political leaders from all parties in New Delhi to explain its draft of Lokpal bill and seek their help in incorporating it in final draft.
On Wednesday, Team Anna met JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav over the Lokpal draft. “Team Anna met Mr Sharad Yadav. It appears that Opposition is understanding certain vital issues of the Bill. Misinformation being removed,” tweeted Bedi. However, she clarified that Hazare is not trying to influence politicians. “Feel assured team Anna is sensing, briefing and explaining the key differences between the two bills and leaving the rest to them,” Bedi tweeted.
She also said Hazare will start another round of his indefinite hunger strike is a ‘wrong’ draft of the Lokpal Bill is tabled. “Anna announced (Wednesday) round 2 of agitation starting Aug 16th if UPA dares to table the wrong bill. Be ready for what u want & India needs,” said Bedi. Hazare’s team on Friday met Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani to seek his support on the civil society’s draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill.
The civil society’s meeting with Advani comes days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convenes an all party meeting on the proposed anti-corruption ombudsman institution on July 3. The meeting will primarily focus on whether the PM and higher judiciary (Chief Justice of India) should come under the ambit of the Lokpal, the sticking point between the two groups, reports said.
Both the government ministers and the civil society members on the drafting committee said they agreed to disagree on the bill. The union ministers in the Lokpal Bill drafting committee said the Anna group's idea of the anti-corruption ombudsman law is like having a parallel government, while Anna Hazare said if the bill is toothless he would resort to another indefinite fast "to teach the government a lesson".