Kolkata/New Delhi: Launching an attack on social activist Anna Hazare and yoga guru Baba Ramdev for their anti-graft campaigns, union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Sunday accused a section of the civil society of trying to weaken the country`s democratic institutions and hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for trying to gain political mileage out of it.
"The constitution has given the power to legislate only to parliament and the state assemblies. If 5,000 or 6,000 people dictate from outside, what parliament ought to do, this will weaken democracy," Mukherjee said at a press conference in Kolkata.
Hitting out at BJP for trying to gain mileage from the civil society protests, he said the party was rejected by the electorate in the recent elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, but was now trying to take advantage of the situation arising out of the fasts by Ramdev and Anna Hazare.
He said the RSS was supporting Ramdev`s campaign to "settle scores". "The RSS supported the movement with its logistics. The RSS is trying to settle scores as during the plenary session of the Congress we raised our voice against the RSS links with extremism starting from Malegaon blasts," said Mukherjee.
Mukherjee, who released a document in English containing his party`s views on the corruption and Lokpal bill issue, said the Congress was launching an awareness campaign all over the country.
"The documents will be made available in other languages. Debates, discussions and seminars would be organised right from the district to the block levels to put forth our views," he said.
Referring to Hazare`s deadline of Aug 15 for passing the Lokpal Bill, Mukherjee said the centre had suggested that the anti-graft bill would be placed during the monsoon session of parliament beginning mid-July.
It was not possible, however, to give a time frame by when the bill would be passed, he said.
"The government tried to solve the Lokpal agitation. A drafting committee for the Lokpal bill was formed. Few meetings of the committee have been held. But now threats are being issued that if the bill is not prepared within Aug 15 then he (Anna) will again sit on a fast-unto-death programme. What does this mean," questioned Mukherjee.
"The constitution of India has given the powers of preparing a law and a bill to the parliament and the assemblies. And somebody will dictate from outside and set a deadline? Will this kind of threat strengthen the democratic setup or weaken it? This is the question," Mukherjee contended.
Asked if he was sure of getting the legislation passed by parliament, he said: "Who can give guarantee? Parliament is supreme."
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, in response to Mukherjee, said in New Delhi that the finance minister was trying to focus his anger on the opposition party and the RSS after he was criticised by the Congress for meeting Baba Ramdev at the Delhi airport on June 1 ahead of the yoga guru`s protest at Ramlila ground on June 4.
"BJP is ruling 36 percent of India and Congress only 31 percent. We are ruling in nine states. How Congress lost in Bihar is well known. Mamata`s victory in West Bengal is not the victory of Pranab babu or the Congress," Prasad said.
"Pranab Babu...don`t talk the language of desperation. Being a seasoned politician, understand the mood, anger and distress of the people of the country over corruption," he appealed to the finance minister.