New Delhi: BJP on Friday made its first serious
move to engage on the Lokpal Bill issue with its top brass
discussing the two drafts of the proposed legislation and the
impact of bringing MPs and higher judiciary in its ambit with
civil society activists led by Anna Hazare.
Hazare, along with his team members Arvind Kejriwal and
Kiran Bedi, went to the BJP headquarters here for a meeting
with L K Advani and ten other top party leaders, who assured
him that the opposition party was fully committed to a "strong
and credible" Lokpal.
During the one-and-a-half hour meeting, also attended
by Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the civil society members
apprised the BJP leaders of the points of differences between
their draft and the draft of the government representatives
led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Both maintained that there was no discussion on
including the Prime Minister within the ambit of the Lokpal.
Team Anna has been making a strong pitch for such a move.
The opposition`s main concern was whether the MPs would
continue to enjoy the legal immunity they do for acts done in
Parliament once the Lokpal is appointed.
"We were asked whether constitutionally it is possible
to have the Lokpal and Lokayukta under the same Bill and about
Article 105 (2) of the Constitution (which deals with immunity
to MPs for their actions in Parliament). There were a lot of
technical questions which were asked," Kejriwal said.
Both the BJP and the civil society members agreed that
the Bill should ensure a mechanism by which peopl of
"integrity and independence" are appointed as Lokpal.
After the meeting, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad
said his party is "fully committed to a strong and credible
With government having convened an all-party meeting
on July 3 to discuss the issue, BJP chose to keep its cards
close to its chest, refusing to divulge areas of disagreement
with the government and Jan Lokpal drafts.
"An important thing that came out of the meeting is
that those who are chosen as Lokpal should be honest and good
people. A process should be there to ensure this. This has
been dealt with partly in the government draft and partly in
our draft," Kejriwal said.
Though BJP has not yet decided whether NDA will attend
Sunday`s all-party meeting, party sources said not getting
involved at all would lead to Team Anna and the government
getting all the credit for the Bill.
At the same time, BJP President Nitin Gadkari has
rubbed it in that the government thought of consulting the
opposition now and called for an all-party meeting only when
big differences arose with Anna`s team.
Interestingly, the BJP asked the government to clarify
if the draft Bill prepared by Mukherjee`s team is the
In today`s meeting, Hazare told BJP leaders that he had
suggested to the Joint Drafting Committee at the very
beginning that the opposition should also be involved.
Among other concerns, BJP does not want a Lokpal who
has the powers to "disturb the sensitive federal structure".
"The Lokpal should not be such that the Centre misuses
it as the present UPA government has done by crossing all
limits of discrimination against non-Congress state
governments," Prasad said.
BJP also insisted that the MPs should be able to
participate in Parliamentary activity without fear,
inducements or threat, and undue control of the Lokpal over it
may be detrimental.
The civil society members were of the opinion that the
Lokpal Bill should be the same for the Centre and the state
and be brought into force simultaneously as was done in the
case of RTI.