New Delhi, Jun 16: A day after talks on Lokpal Bill got deadlocked, Anna Hazare today accused the government of having no intention of enacting a strong anti-corruption law and said he will undertake an indefinite fast from August 16 if a diluted legislation is brought.
Hazare alleged that the government had “backtracked” on the promises that it will agree to all the suggestions forwarded by the civil society members.
He told reporters that he was “surprised” that the government wants civil society members to give a separate draft of the bill which will be brought before the cabinet along with that of the government.
“If there have to be two drafts, then why was this joint committee formed. They could have told us earlier. Our draft was known to them. Why waste so much of time? It is clear that the government has no intention to bring an effective bill,” Hazare said.
Alleging that the government had gone back on assurances given to him to persuade him to withdraw his hunger strike in April, he said, “I will resume my fast on August 16....if the government tries to suppress us like in the case of Ramdev, we are prepared for that,” he said.
“We are ready to face lathis and bullets. I am ready to sacrifice my life for the sake of the country,” he said.
However, the Hazare camp made it clear that they will attend the meetings of June 20 and 21 to see what the government has to say on the issue.
Hazare's aide Arvind Kejriwal said the government has “frittered away a huge opportunity” to frame a strong bill and take credit for it. “What the government is now bringing is not a Lokpal Bill but a ‘Jokepal' Bill.”
“What is the point of according sanction to a weak bill? If a weak bill is passed, then we will have to protest. If it is a weak bill, then there is no gain for the people,” Hazare said.
When pointed out government was accusing them of resorting to blackmail, he said they will continue with “this blackmailing”.
Kejriwal said, “Do you think that the government is weak? Can this government be blackmailed? Is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh elected? Is Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Alhuwalia in front of whom the Chief Ministers wait for plan allocation elected? Who appointed him? Was there an advertisement for the post?”
However, he said if they can arrive at a consensus in the next meetings, they will be happy. Hazare also said they “will not stop midway” and will attend the remaining meetings. Citing the Standing Committee recommendations on the Whistleblowers Bill, Shanti Bhushan, lawyer and co-chair of the joint drafting committee, sought to punch holes in the government's stand not to include Prime Minister and judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal.
“The standing committee, which has members from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, has recommended that any inaction by Prime Minister or judiciary should be investigated by an independent agency.
“If the lawmakers of both the houses feel so, then why is the five ministers against inclusion of the Prime Minister and judiciary under the purview of the Lokpal,” he said.
Questioning the ministers' intention on Lokpal Bill, lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the government just wants to bring a “symbolic, worthless and bogus bill” but warned that if they do so, they will have to pay the price as people are now aware of what they want on the issue of corruption.
Attacking the government, Kejriwal said the government does not want a strong Lokpal bill be enacted as its passage in Parliament will ensure that “more than 50 per cent” of the ministers land in jail. “Can you expect that they sign their own suicide note?” he said.
Kejriwal alleged that only 20 per cent of the work on Lokpal Bill drafting is over and the proceedings of the meetings were a sham. “They only read out the decisions. All the ministers acted under a uniform strategy.”
He claimed that they had forwarded 40 points on Lokpal to the government side for consideration and in the meetings, 15 “inconsequential” items were agreed up to while the remaining were postponed for further discussions.
He said another 31 points were submitted after public consultations. When pointed out that Law Minister M Veerappa Moily has said that the government has agreed to 34 out of 40 principles laid down by them, Kejriwal said there could be “a change in heart” on the other side which is welcome.
He also alleged that the government has no intention to provide them with the audio recordings of the proceedings though the ministers have promised to look into their demands.
Asked why they want to go to the meetings and present their draft, Shanti Bhushan said they would like to have their version before the cabinet and people to see what they were aiming for.
Queried whether they were subverting Parliamentary democracy, Kejriwal said they have great respect for Parliament and it should not be equated with Parliamentarians.
“Parliamentarians also should respect Parliament and it is their duty to reflect the wishes of people in the House,” Kejriwal said while Prashant argued for participatory democracy rather than the present representative democracy. PTI