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Opposition parties to hold protests on corruption

Nine opposition parties termed the government version of the Lokpal Bill as "unacceptable" and said they would jointly organise nationwide protests next week to demand an effective legislation to curb corruption in high places.

New Delhi: Nine opposition parties,
including the Left, on Friday termed the government version of the
Lokpal Bill as "unacceptable" and said they would jointly
organise nationwide protests next week to demand an effective
legislation to curb corruption in high places.

"We have decided to conduct demonstrations, dharnas and
other forms of protests all over the country against rampant
corruption and growing attacks on democratic rights" on August
23, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat told a press
conference after a meeting of the nine parties here.
CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan said, "We may even
demand its (government Lokpal bill`s) withdrawal if
necessary", while Karat said the parties would express their
opinion in the parliamentary Standing Committee looking into
the legislation.

Karat and Bardhan were accompanied by top leaders -- N
Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), H D Deve Gowda (JD-S), Ajit Singh
(RLD), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc), Abani Roy (RSP) among
others. M Thambidurai (AIADMK) and Bhratruhari Mahtab (BJD)
also attended the meeting.

Asked whether this agitation would pave the way for a
Third Front, Karat merely said, "These are issue-based
protests. .... Earlier, we had jointly organised all-India
hartal on the issue of price rise".

On whether they would organise a `Bharat Bandh`, Karat
said this was the beginning of a nationwide anti-corruption
campaign. "We will meet again after August 23 to decide on the
future course".

To a question whether they would coordinate with the BJP
-led NDA, he said the nine parties were organising their own
programmes. "The NDA has also expressed that the government
version of the Bill does not serve the purpose", he said,
adding all opposition parties were organising their own
agitational programmes.
Referring to the deliberations at the meeting of leaders
of the nine parties, Karat said the "most burning issue" of
"rampant corruption" and the anti-corruption agitation by Anna
Hazare was discussed threadbare.

The leaders were of the "unanimous opinion that the
government bill is unacceptable. It a weak and ineffective
bill. We want an effective Lokpal legislation," he said.

A mechanism to curb corruption in the judiciary was also
discussed and the parties felt that the Judicial
Accountability law, to be passed by Parliament, should include
the creation of a National Judicial Commission to deal with
such issues. "The present (judicial accountability) bill is
also insufficient," Karat said.

While electoral reforms to curb money power and
criminality in elections were needed, effective measures are
also required to unearth blackmoney stashed away abroad, he

Condemning the way Hazare and his supporters were
arrested, Karat said these "assaults on democratic rights are
rising. .... In Delhi, if you plan to protest, you have to
abide by 21 conditions set by the police. It is the same
situation elsewhere. You have to fill up forms and give
undertakings and there are various other restrictions".

Replying to questions on the Lokpal bill, Karat said,
"The government bill is not adequate. The public mood is
against it... as it will not serve the purpose."

"If the government is willing, we are prepared to discuss
with it. As of now, we have decided to mobilise the people
against it," he said.

The Left and other parties have already held two
nationwide strikes this year -- on April 27 and July five --
to protest against rise in prices of essential commodities and
petroleum products.


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