Jan Nayak Anna Hazare

Updated: Sep 03, 2011, 19:14 PM IST

Saswat Panigrahi

My father reminiscences how during their university days they thronged to join Jayprakash Narayan’s Sampoorna Kranti movement. Now, my generation can proudly say we are part of Sampoorna Kranti-II launched by Anna Hazare.

There are enough similarities and a few differences between the two mass movements. In both the movements, corruption was the key word.

Lok Nayak Jayprakash called for a sampoorna kranti (total revolution) to unseat an “autocratic” and “corrupt” Congress regime headed by Indira Gandhi. It was through the movement, Jayprakash raised the larger questions of propriety and morality in public life.

Iconic Gandhian Anna Hazare also launched another sampoorna kranti to press for a strong anti-corruption ombudsman at a time when a series of macabre scams -- 2G spectrum scam, CWG scam, CVC appointment scam, Odisha mining scam, Vedanta land grab scams, Adarsh housing society scam, Karnataka mining scam (the list could go on) -- have hit the nation. Unlike the 1970s, corruption is no longer the fiefdom of the Congress party. In this season of scams, corruption is almost a way of life and is often being used as a sheet anchor for governance. That was precisely the reason the soldier-turned anti-corruption crusader made it clear, “The revolution is not against any particular party or a government. It is meant for a change in the system.”

Hazare’s 12-day-long satyagraha to press for a stronger Lokpal Bill has awakened the nation. The movement has rekindled nationalism. Bowing before the mass movement, both the houses of Parliament in their resolution in principle agreed to Hazare’s three key demands, which include bringing lower bureaucracy in the ambit of Lokpal, appointing Lokayuktas in the states and a citizen`s charter for government departments.

The nation saw history being once again anchored from the historic Ramlila Maidan. Call it the victory of democracy or victory of peoples’ power; it was for the first time that peoples’ voice got heard in the legislation making process. So, call him Jan Nayak.

In a rare occasion, the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP came together in bringing the Lokpal dispute to a closure at least for the time being. It is a little known fact that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Shabha Arun Jaitley worked together on the final draft of the Lokpal resolution. And Anna Hazare deserves all credit for this.

The 74-year-old Gandhian opened the cold storage of Indian politics and picked up an issue on which Parliament sat on for four decades. Hardly did anyone think that the issue could now shake Indian politics.

Those aware of the political history of India would know that the idea of Lokpal was floated way back in 1963 by LM Singhvi, an independent member of Lok Sabha. The Lokpal Bill was first introduced in 1968 by the Indira Gandhi government. It was consequently passed in Lok Sabha in 1969. It was in the same year that the ruling Congress split and the bill could not get through in Rajya Sabha.

The bill was subsequently introduced in Parliament nine times between 1971 and 2008, but continually stymied each time. Governments introducing the legislation either failed to complete full term or didn’t return to power. It was last introduced by Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2001. The bill was then put on the backburner by UPA-I regime.

Thanks to Hazare, once again Parliament has woken up to the essence of the Lokpal Bill. Now the bill is in parliamentary Standing Committee’s court. Interestingly, late LM Singhvi’s son senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi is heading the Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which looks into the draft of the bill.

“For 40 years, we could not pass the Lokpal Bill. I accept lapse of our governments”, candidly admitted UPA’s crisis manager Pranab Mukherjee in the floor of the house. But today, the nation wants an answer. Why did it take so long? Who is guilty of the inexplicable delay?

It is now up to the government to follow the legislation making process. The parliamentary Standing Committee should work out the final draft of the Lokpal Bill without any delay, so that it can be tabled in Parliament. But, as the Standing Committee now bats for Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s “game changing” idea to make the Lokpal a constitutional institution, further “procedural delay” is in the offing. It seems the passage of the bill may be a long way ahead.

This is not to dispute that the draft of the Lokpal Bill gives restricted remit to the Lokpal institution. The draft needs to be rewritten in order to widen the ambit of Lokpal. A copy of the Jan Lokpal Bill prepared by Team Anna is also with the Standing Committee. Best provisions of the Jan Lokpal should be incorporated in the bill taking a broader national consensus into account.

Hope the new Lokpal Bill will give enough space for the independence of the ombudsman. The bill should talk about a transparent appointment system for Lokpal. The last, but not the least: there is a possibility that the Lokpal could turn corrupt and in that case the bill should have the provisions for recalling the Lokpal.

The government should act and act fast. The Jan Nayak is watching their every move.

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