Govt, Team Anna bury civility, hopes hinge on Sonia, PM
The gloves are off is a limited expression. It's a bloody war out there. As both sides turn nasty, the hope of the draft Lokpal Bill recedes.
With the veneer of civility and cordial relations peeling off under a sustained barrage of acrimonious exchanges between Congress leaders and members of the Anna Hazare-led civil society, the possibility of the two sides working with each other on the joint drafting committee for the Jan Lokpal bill now appears bleak.
The joint committee – formed amidst such fanfare and optimism only two months ago — was seen as a major climb down by the government and was hailed as a victory and the wresting of a major concession by the anti-graft agitators to mark the end of Anna Hazare's fast at Jantar Mantar.
Many could even then see through the bonhomie. For the government it was perhaps a case of strategic retreat. Caught on the wrong foot and not quite prepared for the popular chord Anna's agitation had struck, the government succumbed and conceded to the demand for the joint drafting panel not because of any sincere commitment to the cause but more because of their need to get out of a tricky situation.
The government marshalled its resources well after the initial reversal. An ambitious Baba Ramdev allowed the government to unleash their strategy of divide and rule. The government played on the insecurities and the greed of the Baba who was perhaps feeling somewhat left out from the public glare having conceded the “crusader” space to Anna.
So he was wooed and feted as he raised the black money issue. The Jan Lokpal bill issue somewhere receded in the background and lulled by all the attention he was getting the Baba even announced he supported the government view on the prime minister and the higher judiciary not being in the ambit of the proposed Lokpal.
Having thus divided the anti-graft movement, how the government then dealt with the Baba and his team of supporters needs no recounting.
Now the battle is truly joined between the government and Anna and his team.
The first salvo was, expectedly, fired by Digvijay Singh who chose to tar both Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev with the same brush describing them as a front for the BJP and the RSS.
Once Baba Ramdev broke his fast on Sunday, Pranab Mukherjee took it upon himself to launch an all out attack on team Anna by talking about Parliament's sovereign rights in enacting laws. He also questioned the authority and locus standi of the members of the civil society for being so adamant and also ridiculed their demand for telecasting live the proceedings of the joint drafting committee saying "it is not a circus".
But the gloves finally came off in Delhi today as members of the civil society and the Congress spokesperson bared their knuckles in respective press conferences.
Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan , both members of the joint drafting panel, questioned the government’s insistence on keeping the prime minister, higher judiciary and the conduct of MP’s in the House out of Lokpal's ambit.
Kejriwal's argument was if the PM was covered under the prevention of corruption act why should the UPA want the PM not to be under the ambit of an independent Lokpal.
Bhushan said the government cannot raise the "Parliament is supreme" issue whenever confronted with anything inconvenient. Obviously referring to Mukherjee's stand on showing live the proceedings of the joint panel, Bhushan wondered whether the live telecast of parliamentary proceedings made the MP's feel like they were part of a "circus".
But it was an unusually acerbic Manish Tiwari who sealed the issue for dashed the hopes of anyone still nursing hopes of some kind of a truce between the two sides.
He said the country and the government will no longer suffer the tyranny of the "unelected and the unelectable". Stating that Anna Hazare was playing politics and represented a Right wing conspiracy against an elected government Tiwari said Anna has exposed his political leaning by praising the likes of Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar.
Questioned on his belligerence, the Congress spokesperson said "restrain cannot be a one-way street. One cannot call an elected government a bunch of frauds and liars and expect us not to say anything. And what is so democratic in the approach of the so called civil society when their attitude smacks of either its our way or it is Highway."
With so much acrimony, mistrust and bad blood on both sides its almost impossible to conceive that the joint panel can even sit together without coming to blows let alone draft a Jan Lokpal bill.
This apparently hopeless situation can only be saved by some forceful and statesman like intervention by two persons in the country; the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, or the UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.
The question is, will they?
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