Social activist Anna Hazare said on Saturday he would break his fast against corruption at 10 am tomorrow, after Parliament passed a resolution seeking a strong and effective Lok Pal and urged the Standing Committee to look at the issues of Citizens’ Charter (provision of facilities to citizens within a defined time frame and strong penalties for errant officials), an appropriate authority to address corruption by lower bureaucrats and establishment of Lok Ayuktas in states.
Both Houses of Parliament passed the resolution by voice vote, amid extraordinary accommodation shown by both the government and the Opposition. The two sides came midway to address the three sticking points.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley, for instance, criticised the Jan Lok Pal bill for having provisions to intercept phone communication of ministers and the prime minister. He made it clear the BJP did not agree with all the provisions of the Jan Lok Pal Bill of Hazare.
Predictably, the BJP asked the prime minister to be included in the Lok Pal, with certain exclusions, and the judiciary be brought under the ambit of a National Judicial Commission.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj called the Central Bureau of Investigation as the Congress Bachao Institution for the way it had been used against critics of the party, and demanded the premier investigating agency be given more autonomy. She said the Lok Pal Bill had been brought nine times in Parliament — 1968, 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2011.
“Every idea has a time. The time of Lok Pal has come,” she said, demanding the PM be brought under the ambit of the Lok Pal. But she said decisions taken by him in the matters of national security and public order should be out of the Lok Pal’s ambit. She said MPs’ conduct inside Parliament should be out of Lok Pal’s ambit. She supported all the three points in the resolution.
Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit said there must be some mechanism for handling corporate corruption and malpractices associated with the non-governmental organisation sector.
Minister of planning Ashwini Kumar said, “If there is one issue on which there is complete unanimity, that issue is law making is the domain, and the exclusive domain, of both Houses of Parliament, and that law making cannot be effectuated under a banyan tree or a peepul tree, by scores of people sitting under it. The day we allow ourselves to regress into that kind of a coercive legislation, that would be the death knell of all that we have nurtured to create and consolidate us further.” He also questioned the wisdom of those advising Hazare.
But coercive legislation or not, that is what Parliament agreed to do on Saturday and more than one minister wondered about the durability and practicability of the resolution.
They predicted that when the Standing Committee gave its recommendations, another round of agitation would start. “We should only promise what we can deliver,” one said. As news of more MPs supporting Hazare’s three conditions filtered in, celebrations began in the social activist’s make-shift room at the Ramlila Maidan. Kiran Bedi, former cop and a close aide of Hazare, was seen hugging other team members in celebration. Later, she appeared on the stage and enthusiastically waved the national flag. “History is being written and whole Parliament has won. It has spoken the voice of Anna and of the people. Today, the voice of people and Parliament became one,” Bedi said.
“Anna doesn’t have a television in his room, but I have showed him on my iPad. Anna said, ‘It’s very nice and smiled’,” she added. This was even before Parliament had agreed on a resolution. However, moments later, her tone changed and she requested the people to pray that the resolution was passed by Parliament tonight.
“Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan had gone to Parliament, but they have not got the resolution. History is still far. Prayers are needed, so let us pray,” she said. In Parliament, there was no information that Kejriwal had come there. Later, there was a message that he had met law minister Salman Khurshid at his residence. He was asked as much. “Kejriwal has every right to visit my home, even if I am not at home,” said Khurshid. Later, Kejriwal said Parliament should vote on the resolution. “All political parties have supported our demands, so why aren’t they voting? The BJP should make its stand clear. Anna is saying voting should take place,” Kejriwal said.
Finally, there was no vote. In the evening, well before the resolution was passed, Shanti Bhushan announced Hazare would 12-day-long fast on Sunday at 10 am.
“Hazare is not breaking his fast tonight, but he will break it at 10 in the morning, as he never breaks his fast at night. When he will break his fast, Dr Trehan will be present,” Bhushan said. What he did not add was that being Sunday, Ramlila Maidan will be filled to capacity.