Anna-ther storm in Parliament

Written by Satvik Varma | Satvik Varma | Updated: Nov 30 2011, 06:10am hrs
The first few days of the winter session have been stormy and one is reminded of a similar tempest-tossed session last year. Is there something about the Delhi winter that makes parliamentarians act cold towards their political opponents Or is it just politics taking precedence over national interest Either way, the ongoing histrionics remind one of Winston Churchills words that, The world today is ruled by harassed politicians absorbed in getting into office or turning out the other man so that not much room is left for debating great issues on their merit. How appropriate, given that 31 Bills are to come up for debate and discussion and 23 new Bills are to be introduced, and hopefully passed, in the short duration of the winter session. What are some of the issues that surround the passing of the Lokpal Bill and the drama one can expect from Team Anna if the Lokpal legislation isnt passed in the winter session

To recollect, in August, Anna Hazare called off his hunger strike when a joint resolution was passed in Parliament and assurance given that the ruling coalition will introduce a strong and effective Lokpal legislation. Commitment had also been made that, subject to completion of deliberations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, attempts would be made to pass an anti-corruption legislation in the winter session. Notably, no word was given to pass only the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Subsequently, Hazare had written to the Congress and BJP asking them to send him letters reaffirming their commitment to the Jan Lokpal Bill. At the time, Congress refused to oblige, not so much because of its lack of commitment to pass an anti-corruption statute, but because it rightly believed that such a letter was not necessary after the Parliament resolution. Perhaps feeling spurned that the Congress wasnt giving into its demands, it was then that Team Anna decided to actively campaign against the Congress in the Hisar elections.

One wonders what has changed since then, as the PMs office sent Anna Hazare a letter which reportedly was delivered on the first day of the Parliament re-convening, assuring Hazare that the government will bring a strong Lokpal Bill in the winter session Is the government feeling insecure or does it just find itself stuck in a political quagmire Is the boycott and stalling of parliamentary proceedings a tactical move of the BJP to prevent the passing of the Lokpal Billwhich even it knows is likely to get passed in some shape/formso that the UPA gets mud on its face Or is it a calculated political ploy intended to stall the governments developmental agenda Is the objective to destabilise the ruling coalition and remind everyone of its governance deficit Or is it an attempt to compel Hazare to starvation again and force him back to the Ramlila grounds It could also be part of a larger strategy for the Hazare-Congress confrontation to continue and have Team Anna exert whatever influence it can against the Congress in the upcoming UP and other north-Indian state elections.

Whatever the reason, under the current global economic environment and times of extreme uncertainty, all temptations of party politics need to be given a go-by and the Parliament must be allowed to function. Of course, this is stating the obvious, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the obvious fact that although the Parliament is made up of politicians, it is not necessarily the place to play politics. It is the place for legislation and as one of the arms of government functioning, one expects Parliamentary proceedings to be carried out in keeping with the principles of democracy. Hence, if the BJP or other political parties boycott proceedings, refuse to participate in Parliamentary debates and, in fact, prevent them from taking place, then they must bear equal responsibility for key legislations not being passed. And if the Lokpal Bill isnt passed in the winter session, Team Anna should attribute equal blame to the BJP and should be equally vociferous in condemning them in the upcoming elections.

Team Anna has time and again repeated that if their version of the Lokpal Bill isnt passed in the winter session, then they will resume their antics. This again forces one to think if the ongoing crusade has become more about these people than the cause they passionately championed! And while Anna may be entitled to publicly protest and go on another indefinite fast, someone needs to share with Anna that public perception of his movement, its leaders and Annas own personality has changed. It would also be helpful for Anna to note the findings of a survey carried out by a leading newspaper, in collaborations with C-fore, wherein 70% of those surveyed stated that while they initially supported Anna, their support for Team Anna has diminished given his actions post the last round of Ramlila protests. And this isnt only because of the infighting within Team Anna or the serious allegations of impropriety levelled against it or the startling revelations of Raju Parulekar, Annas erstwhile personal blogger. Its largely because somewhere even his initial supporters feel that Team Anna has gone off-track in its legitimate fight against corruption, by combining many more agendas to the fight. Add to this the repeated use of threats and the clear political and personal agenda of some members of Team Anna, and it would explain why the Anna brand may be diminishing. But the very fact that this opinion piece is being written on what to expect from Team Anna, is admission that there is still some time before Team Anna slips into complete oblivion. But the way they are heading, the end may no longer be far!

The author is an advocate based in New Delhi and founder of Independent Law Chambers. svarma@indlawchambers.com