The inevitable has happened. It’s not just the Congress that is opposing Anna Hazare’s crusade for setting up a completely independent institution of Lokpal (ombudsman) that would have the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament under its ambit. The first non-Congress salvo against Hazare has now been fired by the Communist Party of India (CPI), which said on June 23 that those who expect the Lokpal Bill to rid the country of corruption are ‘living in a fool's paradise.’
CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan lashed out at civil society representatives, speaking in the kind of language that could easily be confused with that of Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh (although he condemned Singh’s smear campaign against Team Anna).
‘What does a “civil society” mean? Who are its members? Can they speak on behalf of the entire country? The five members (of civil society who are members of the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal bill) have an exaggerated notion about themselves. One must be modest,’ Bardhan reportedly said.
Bardhan dismissed Team Anna’s claims as ‘highly exaggerated’ and demanded to know from civil society representatives if they had touched on the source of corruption. In the next breath, though, he gave his own response. He said that corporate houses were ‘fertile sources’ of corruption, adding that there is a ‘nexus between corporate houses, bureaucrats and politicians.’ Bardhan did add, though, that he agrees with most of the points in the draft.
Observers here are convinced that tougher political opposition to the so-called ‘civil society’ led by Anna Hazare has been set in motion, and that the trickle of criticism promises to become a torrent. And this assessment likely isn’t far off the mark. Hazare has bitten off much more than he can chew, and has erred by taking on the entire political system.
The CPI’s reaction is significant. Thus far, it had been a face-off between Team Anna and the UPA government. The other three parties that constitute the Left Front together with the CPI – CPI (M), Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) – will inevitably follow suit sooner or later. All eyes will therefore now be on the main opposition Bhartiya Janta Party.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has written a letter to all political parties and chief ministers, in his capacity of chairman of the joint drafting committee, seeking their views on the Lokpal bill. All major Opposition parties, including the BJP and the CPI (M), have declined to give their views, saying they will only do so in parliament. The monsoon session of parliament is scheduled to begin on August 1.