The lobbying by Anna Hazare and Co. seem to have produced some results, with the Bhartiya Janata Party officially supporting the major demands of the anti-corruption campaign.
Clarifying the party’s stand, spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said there should be no confusion about BJP’s stand on major issues related to the formulation of the Lokpal bill.
“The Prime Minister is under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He is under the RTI.. We believe he should be covered under the ambit of the Lokpal,” Rudy said, breaking the suspense over the stand that BJP would take on the issue of Lokpal.
The statement comes in the wake of another similar clarification from senior leader Arun Jaitley which took the government to task for trying to keep the lokpal under its feet.
Rudy too reiterated Jaitley earlier comments. “We have major reservations on the appointment of the selection commission, qualification criteria and even the removal process,” Rudy said, adding that the Government is trying to load the selection panel in its own favor to ensure that it gets a Lokpal that will be beholden to it.
Rudy also reminded everyone that the Government has only just approached the BJP and that the party is entitled to fine tune its response in the Parliament, when the bill comes up for discussion.
The only major area where the BJP’s opinion is not yet known is also perhaps the most important — will the Lokpal be a Delhi-based quasi-judicial body or will be a nation-wide investigation agency with offices in each district. Also associated with this question is the issue of Lokpal’s jurisdiction.
While the Government does not want the Lokpal to have the power to investigate corruption at lower levels — such as police stations, tax inspectors, municipal offices etc., Anna and his movement want all government officials to be covered by the legislation. They point out that most ordinary people are not hit by corruption in the ministries in Delhi as much as that at the street level — in Police, schools, village and tax offices etc..
The move by BJP is likely to cause much discomfort to the Congress party and the Government, which had read the long silence from the main opposition party as a sign that it harbored unpopular opinions on the Lokpal bill. Congress felt that the BJP would support it in trying to keep the expectations and powers of the Lokpal under control.
As a result, it had gone on the aggressive challenging the BJP to make its stand clear on the major aspects of controversy on the Lokpal bill. BJP’s apparent support to Anna’s demands is now likely to lead to a stronger Lokpal than was suggested by the five government ministers on the bill drafting committee.
Interestingly, an opinion poll by the CNN-IBN and Hindustan Times found that between 50%-60% of the people were in favor of including the PM and the highest judges within the investigating powers of the impending Lokpal. Those who opposed were very few, with a larger number yet “undecided.”