Making peace with political class: The story behind the consensus over Lokpal Bill

Dec 18 2013, 11:47 IST
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Kapil Sibal outside Parliament; he calls it a historic day. Express photo: Prem Nath Pandey Kapil Sibal outside Parliament; he calls it a historic day. Express photo: Prem Nath Pandey
SummaryThe passage of the Lokpal Bill showed a rare unanimity between the political class and Anna's team.

Hours after Rahul Gandhi had come out in support of the Lokpal Bill at Congress headquarters last Saturday, chairman of the Rajya Sabha select committee Satyavrat Chaturvedi got a call from Kiran Bedi in Ralegaon Siddhi. She expressed her appreciation for his committee’s efforts and passed on the phone to Anna Hazare, who too praised the panel’s recommendations.

It was a different Anna Hazare from the one who had attacked the government two years ago after the Parliamentary Standing Committee decision to keep the lower bureaucracy out of the Lokpal’s purview. “He (Rahul) must have pressured the committee to keep the lower bureaucracy out,” Hazare had said. Chaturvedi had reacted, “His (Hazare’s) word is not Lord Brahma’s. Is he Satyawadi Harishchandra?”

On Tuesday, as a jubilant Hazare prepared to end his fast after the bill’s expected passage in the Lok Sabha, few in Parliament or Ralegaon Siddhi appeared bothered about the Aam Admi Party’s “Jokepal” jibe. With the political class giving Hazare an opportunity to claim success for his anti-corruption movement, the latter reached out to both principal parties Sunday writing separately to Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and Rahul Gandhi to welcome their commitment to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill and exhorting them to incorporate all the recommendations of the select committee.

Replying Monday, Rahul thanked Hazare saying his letter gave him “encouragement” and stressing a commitment to providing the “strongest possible and competent Lokpal system”. “We respect your role in this and are very grateful for your support,” Rahul wrote.

Jaitley appeared to have played a key role in mollifying Hazare with frequent letters — one stated creation of a sarkari Lokpal could not be “your objective or ours”. What is also said to have contributed to Hazare’s change of heart was that his erstwhile follower Arvind Kejriwal had stolen his thunder on the anti-corruption plank with a startling debut in electoral politics.

Following the split in what was once Team Anna, some prominent faces of the movement such as Bedi chose to stay with Hazare and make a success of his movement by seeing the bill passed. Senior BJP leaders said they had nothing to do with the presence of Bedi and former Army chief V K Singh in Ralegaon Siddhi. “They are not associated with the BJP,” said a senior BJP leader.

The Congress’s role, said sources, was limited to engaging Hazare. Maharashtra

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