New Delhi, Apr 10 : Gandhian Anna Hazare today threatened to revert to agitation if an effective Lokpal legislation is not enacted by August 15 and dismissed criticism that he had resorted to “blackmail”, saying he would continue to do so in public interest.
While Hazare said he will revive his agitation if the Bill is “again delayed” in Parliament, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, who was sharing dais with him at a press conference here, said the 73-year-old Gandhian will go on a fast if the Bill is not passed by August 15.
At the same time, Hazare reaffirmed his faith in Parliament, rule of law and democracy. But for these, the country would not have achieved so much progress in six decades, he said, and stressed that what he was attempting was to involve people in drafting of laws for common good.
“If the government again delays the bill in Parliament after preparation of the draft, we will launch the agitation once again...the bill was brought before Parliament eight times in 42 years but it could not be enacted. Then what is the way out except agitation,” he said.
Hazare, who called off his fast-unto-death demanding a stronger Lokpal Bill yesterday, said, “There is a criticism that I am indulging in blackmail. People may say so. I will continue to do this blackmail till my last breath for people's good...I am doing this for the benefit of the country.”
Asked whether the civil society would agree to any amendment to the draft bill proposed by the joint committee, he said they were open to “good” amendments to the bill.
“If there is a good suggestion, we will accept. We are seeking people's views on the provisions of the bill.... We would accept even if Parliament makes a good amendment to improve the bill,” he said.
He claimed that the government which was initially not amenable to accepting their demands agreed to it only after anti-corruption protesters received people's support for their cause.
“Many people ask me do you have no faith in our Parliament that you have launched the agitation. I have full faith in Parliament. We have accepted democracy,” he said, at the same time underlining that people are the masters in democracy and lawmakers are their servants.
“Make tough laws on the basis of which breaks can be applied on corruption. If you do not do it, people who are the real owners of democracy will make you do it,” he said.
He expressed the hope that a draft prepared by consensus would not face any “big problem” in getting through the cabinet and parliament as five senior ministers are part of the drafting panel.
Bedi said the civil society wanted a stronger bill and was open to “positive” suggestions.
At the same time, Bedi made it clear that if the bill was not passed by August 15, the deadline set by Hazare, then the Gandhian will again go on a fast.
“August 15 is our deadline. Either we celebrate that day or Anna again goes on fast,” she said.
Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the ten-member joint drafting committee, said that they will see to it that the new draft goes to the level of gram sabha so that even villagers can give their suggestions on the bill.
Insisting on transparency, Hazare said that there should be video recording of the proceedings of joint committee and later its CDs should be made available to public.
“The committee has been set up now. Now we have to see how to take it forward. The preparations of the draft will begin from April 16. The entire process should be videographed so that people can see who is saying what. What government is saying, what we are saying. Nothing will be hidden.
“This will continue later on after the Lokpal legislation is enacted, during the process of selection of panel to select Lokpal and appointment of Lokpal. There will be total transparency. If people feel there is some lacunae they can point it out,” he said.
Downplaying criticism about the selection of father-son duo of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan to the drafting panel, he said the committee is only for two months and legal experts are required for the job.
He said he had a talk with Baba Randev, who had raised objections about the presence of the two members of a family in the joint drafting committee, and said that there should not be any differences on such issues.
“He had raised with me the issue of why Bedi was not a member of the panel. I explained to him that Bedi herself has told us that she did not want to be part of the panel. I told him that this committee is not a permanent one and the Bhushans have legal expertise,” Hazare said.
Kejriwal said the lawyers were part of the committee which drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill and it was felt that their presence will help in putting forth the civil society's views on contentious points.
Cautioning against the “habit of smelling a rat in everything”, Bedi said there were differences on her presence in the panel and members who joined the cause are an “ego-less” group .
Asked whether the proposed Lokpal Bill will be able to stem corruption completely, Hazare said, “It will root out the menace at least by 90 per cent if not 100 per cent.”
He made a strong pitch for the right to reject candidates during elections saying this will go a long way in checking corruption.
To a question on whether the activists who are part of the drafting committee will declared their assets, Hazare said he favoured it. “It should be done. Why to fear? We will place this suggestion before the committee,” he said.
Kejriwal also found no problem with the demand but maintained the committee members do not have any executive powers unlike the lawmakers.
On apprehensions that the Lokpal could have sweeping powers under the Bill proposed by the civil society, he said that checks and balances will be there.
Asked how the Lokpal will tackle the corruption in the corporate sector, Kejriwal said action against politicians and bureaucrats will naturally also follow those who give bribes. PTI