India’s major opposition parties, including the right-of-centre Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communists and regional parties have come together to determine the oppositions’ next move on the Anna Hazare agitation.
Minutes after both houses of the Indian Parliament were adjourned after a shouting match between the opposition and the governing sides, leaders of opposition parties have gone into a meeting within the Parliamentary complex on how to deal with the government.
India’s left-of-centre Congress Party-led government had arrested veteran Gandhian leader Anna Hazare in the morning calling it a “preventive arrest” to secure public peace and security.
India’s Criminal Procedure Code allows the government to make preventive arrests if convinced that someone is likely to commit a crime. According to the government, Anna Hazare’s protests would have been in breach of curfew-like orders clamped on central parts of the capital overnight, in an effort to curb anti-corruption demonstrations.
Today’s meeting was originally supposed to include only members of the right-of-centre National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP. However, it is learnt that a communist party MP suggested to the main opposition block that all non-government parties should hold talks.
India’s Left parties are notorious for abhorring any contact with the right-of-centre BJP, but the latest events seem to have forced the two to put their heads together. A government move to block the main opposition leader, from the BJP, from making a statement on today’s events in the morning session had angered the opposition parties.
Besides the two, the meeting also has representation from regional parties like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
The Left parties are most closely aligned with the demands of the agitators, who have been holding fasts and demonstrations for over four months now. The Janlokpal movement is the biggest mass movement in India since the 1970s, when a similar anti-corruption movement was crushed by a Congress-led government by suspending democratic rights.
Opposition has both been criticised for their lack-lustre support to the protests, as well as urged to join in. Many opposition members of the Parliament are wary of the sweeping powers that the campaigners want to give to India’s new anti-corruption watchdog, the Lokpal.