New Delhi, Aug 24: Anna Hazare's campaign loomed large over both houses of Parliament today with the Opposition targeting the government over the issue of corruption, warning that the country was sitting on a volcano which could explode if the political class failed to get its act together.
Singling out the Congress-led coalition for attack, the opposition wanted the government to realise that whatever was happening at Ramlila Maidan showed that people have become alert and angry over corruption.
Leading the Opposition charge, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi dubbed the coalition as the “government of the corrupt, by the corrupt and for the corrupt”, alleging that the government has “born out of sin” of the cash-for-vote scam of 2008.
Referring to the series of scandals, Joshi told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was present during the special discussion on corruption, “I am not ready to agree that you did it (allowed corruption) deliberately. But it shows how much have you been misguided...Why do you hesitate in identifying the corrupt? When you try, your ministers try to cover up”.
“So, you should first accept that mistakes have been committed and then take corrective measures ... so that the faith of the people on the parliamentary system is restored”, Joshi said.
Agreeing that there was corruption in the country in various walks of life, Congress member K S Rao said it was because of “guts” and “courage” of the Prime Minister and his government that a Minister and an MP, both belonging to a coalition partner, have been sent to Tihar Jail even though there was a risk of losing power.
Questioning whether BJP had done anything like that during its rule, Rao attacked them for indulging in propaganda saying it was affecting the image of the country. He had a dig at Joshi saying his remark that the government was “born out of corruption” meant that the graft during the NDA rule brought the Congress to power in 2004.
The debate saw a clash between Joshi and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal who accused the BJP leader of talking about an issue which was under his consideration as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
“This a clear breach of privilege. I too am ready to face privilege in the PAC and I will fight it out,” an agitated Bansal said when Joshi raised issues relating to the 2G spectrum allocation scam which the PAC was probing.
The spat between the two leaders also saw heated exchanges between Congress and Opposition members. Joshi referred to the alleged KG Basin scam, saying gas prices were increased domestically to benefit RIL, even when there was no increase in the global prices.
He quoted reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the scam and alleged a “nexus” between private firms and officials of the departments of petroleum and hydrocarbon.
The BJP leader said the government “did not act at all” on issues relating to corruption despite media reports and letters written by several MPs and others to the government on the matter.
He demanded that all those guilty, including corporates, should be punished. “The government is helping the corporates at the cost of the poor,” he said in the presence of the Prime Minister.
In the Rajya Sbha, backing Anna Hazare's crusade, the opposition today declared that the people have the right to protest and their their anger against corruption is “fierce and fair” because the government wanted a “Sarkari Lokpal”.
Initiating a short duration discussion on growing incidents of corruption in the country, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley accused the UPA government of acting like a child in handling the agitation of civil society led by Hazare.
“Enormity of protests is proportionate to anger and the enormity of anger is proportionate to the corruption,” he said chiding the government for legislating in “haste and anger”. Amidst disruptions by Congress members, Jaitley said the government had lost the moral battle since it wanted to control appointment of the Lokpal.
He said most of the proposals of the civil society like inclusion of the Prime Minister, judicial accountability and public grievance redressal mechanism are reasonable. If still there is no agreement, the “will of Parliament will prevail,” he said.
However, most of the proposals of the civil society can be made “compatible with the Constitution”. He asked the government to have a “serious relook” at its Lokpal Bill.
Finding faults with the handling of the civil society activists, Jaitley said, “You led them up to a garden path, then suddenly dumped them. Now they do not trust you anymore.”
The Prime Minister and the government are helpless in handling the situation, he said. “Can we blame the people? ... at the end of the day, public opinion is fierce and fair.”
“They have a right to protest and crusade, we must not curtail their right nor should we say like a child we will not talk to you,” he remarked. PTI