Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has lent strong support to passing a “strong and effective” Lokpal bill as soon as possible. She also lent support to Anna Hazare group on all three questions which were subjected to debate in the Parliament today.
1) On the issue of including the Judiciary, Sushma Swaraj said she was in favor of setting up a Judicial Commission to oversee and check corruption — a position similar to that taken by the Anna group lately.
2) She lent strong support to including the lower bureaucracy within the ambit of the Lokpal, pointing out that people are actually harassed by lower level officials, while they may get worked up by big scams. “If we don’t bring them in, the ordinary person on the street will feel cheated,” she said.
3) On the third issue of also setting up state-wide Lokayukt within the Lokpal superstructure, she said she was in favor of it provided there was a clause in the bill requiring the state government to ratify the bill later.
“Every idea has its own time.. and the time for Lokpal has come,” she said, delivering an unexpectedly aggressive speech against the government, peppered with mentions of the various scams during UPA-2 regime.
“Because this bill has become a movement. All the previous ones have been restricted to intellectuals.. the People have taken it upon themselves to get it passed.”
She said she won’t blame the Anna led popular movement for setting deadlines or being impatient about passing the bill. “We have been trying to get this bill passed for more than 40 years,” she pointed.
She said people’s emotions have reached a boiling point. “The reason are the scams that have come up in the last two years.. one after another, with numbers that baffle the mind,” she said.
On top of this, she said, the government was disingenuous to try to get a defective Lokpal bill passed. “The government’s bill has added fuel to fire… it was blunt. People got suspicious,” she pointed out.
She also took a swipe at Rahul Gandhi’s impromptu speech on Lokpal. “I looked back (at the benches) to check if Rahul Gandhi was present in the Lok Sabha, because he comes rarely,” she said.
She also pointed out that the Prime Minister cannot be kept out of the Lokpal bill, especially at a time when incriminated ministers have pointed to his alleged role in carrying out the actions they have been accused of.
She attacked the Speaker for letting someone deliver a speech in the ‘zero hour’. “You should give it only for raising important issues, that too for three minutes.. He read out a written statement for 15 minutes.”
“Was he delivering a speech to the nation or introducing an emergency intervention during the Zero hour,” she asked, leading to protests from Congress party members.
“As it is, our PM speaks very rarely.. When he does, it seems no one wants to listen,” she said, pointing out that Manmohan Singh himself is ready to be under the Lokpal.
On the Judiciary, reflecting the modified Anna group position, Swaraj said it should not be brought under the authority of the Lokpal. She seemed to be supporting a separate judicial accountability body.
On the issue of including MP’s actions within the Parliament under Lokpal, she said it should be kept out of the anti-corruption ombudsman’s investigative powers.
On the selection committee, Swaraj said she wanted government representation kept to the minimum.