New Delhi: Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Thursday stepped up the pressure on the Centre to pass a strict anti-graft legislation before the Winter Session of Parliament concludes and announced a new agitation of filling up jails (jail bharo) from January 1 for not fulfilling its commitment on the Lokpal issue.
The agitation is in addition to the indefinite fast Hazare has already announced from December 27 if a strong Lokpal Bill is not adopted by the Parliament.
Addressing a press briefing in the national capital, the 74-year-old Gandhian said, “We will stage massive protests from December 27 if the Lokpal Bill is not passed in this session. Our agitation will continue for three days and from the New Year, the supporters of Team Anna will court arrest in the whole country.”
“If the weather remains pleasant then the agitation will be held in Delhi as announced earlier. However, if it turns bad, we might shift the agitation to Mumbai,” Anna told reporters.
Asking the government to stick to his deadline for passing a strong Lokpal Bill, Anna said, “We will stage protests and sit-ins in front of those politicians’ houses who have opposed the Lokpal Bill,” he said.
However, he expressed hope that the Lokpal bill will be passed in this session. Softening his stand, Anna said, “If the Centre fulfils its promise and passes a strong Lokpal Bill then we would organise a meet to thank the UPA government for doing so as we are not asking anything for us, but for the country.”
His remarks came a day after a consensus eluded political parties on Lokpal Bill.
Hazare was responding to questions on consensus eluding the all-party meeting on Lokpal Bill and apprehensions that the bill will not be passed in the ongoing Winter Session.
Repeating his demand for extension of the ongoing session to pass the bill, he said, "If there is no time for passing the bill (according to the present schedule), then extend it.”
"It is important for the country. Earlier also, you have occasions when the Session was extended," he said.
Meanwhile, racing against time the Department of Personnel has begun drafting the Lokpal legislation taking into account the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and those of various political parties as articulated at yesterday`s all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
What appears to be certain now is that the Lokpal Bill would be introduced before December 22 when both Houses of Parliament are scheduled to be adjourned sine die.
However, the government has the option of extending the session into early January and taking a year-end break to enable the members to be with their families for Christmas and the New Year. Both Houses could reconvene in the first week of January to consider the Lokpal law.
The draft legislation is expected to be considered by the Union Cabinet early next week, either on Sunday or Monday, after the Prime Minister returns from Moscow on Saturday. It could then be introduced in Parliament on December 20 or 21.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal today expressed confidence that the government would be able to introduce the bill before the scheduled conclusion of the session on December 22.
He pointed out that 35 political parties had given their views at yesterday`s meeting without there being a consensus. This had increased the government`s workload, he said.
Taking note of these differing views and making amendments in the proposed bill accordingly was the task at hand for the government, he said.
With PTI Inputs