India Against Corruption, the grand alliance of NGOs and activists leading the struggle for a strong Lokpal bill, the campaigners welcomed the government’s move to hold an all-party meet on the bill.
“We have always been asking for more and more inputs into the process,” pointed out Prashant Bhushan, one of the five representatives of the Civil Society on the Lokpal Bill drafting committee.
The all-party meet is part of the Government’s efforts to deflect the negative public perception accumulating on it from being seen as opposing the demands of the agitators for an anti-corruption watch-dog organization.
According to sources, the Congress believes that other political parties — who have as much to lose from a strong Lokpal as they themselves — must also carry the burden of opposing the idea.
The government has turned a large section of the educated Indian middle class against itself by opposing most of the demands of Anna Hazare & Company.
It had initially decided not to include any other political party in the discussions with the campaigners, but seems to have realized the enormity of arguing against a mass movement.
The Congress has also found itself the lone target of anti-corruption crusaders, even as other political parties secretly support the Congress’ stand against a Lokpal that can investigate allegations against members of Parliament, ministers etc..
In fact, some parties such as the BJP, have conveniently joined the anti-government, anti-Congress tirade, while privately nursing the hope that an overbearing Lokpal never comes into existence.
An all-party meeting would force the political parties to come out with their stand — which is likely to be against letting Lokpal investigate elected representatives — and help the Congress deflect some of the negative attention it is getting from the public.
However, political parties may press the government to conduct a full consultation with them on the entire Lokpal issue, instead of calling them for knowing their opinion on whether the PM’s actions can be investigated by the Lokpal or not.
The protestors, meanwhile, are likely to press for broader consultations and inputs on the matter, pointing out that political parties face an inherent conflict of interest in deciding how hard their leaders should be scrutinized for corruption.
These developments have come a day after the Civil Society leaders urged their supporters not to be distracted too much by the controversy over whether the Prime Minister is included under the Lokpal’s sphere of investigation or not. It pointed out that it worthless to have the PM covered by a toothless Lokpal, rather than have a strong Lokpal — the number one demand.