Indian Decade

UPA Errs on Anna Hazare

Anna Hazare has issued his latest demands. The UPA would have been better to give him what he wants.

The United Progressive Alliance government is again erring in its dealing with activist Anna Hazare and his demands. Whether the government is doing so out of ignorance or arrogance is open to debate. For his part, the 74-year-old crusader against corruption, easily the most talked about and most powerful man in India today, has also taken an unreasonable stand by issuing his latest fiat to the government that it must pass the Jan Lokpal Bill by August 30 or else his agitation will intensify.

The government is unnecessarily dilly-dallying when batting with a straight bat would have suited both the Congress and the government better. There was no point in referring the Lokpal Bill to parliament’s standing committee (a mini-parliament in itself as it comprises members of all major political parties) immediately after the bill was introduced in parliament on August 4. The government should have taken up the Lokpal Bill immediately for discussion in both houses of parliament.

So far, the nation doesn’t know where exactly the main opposition parties stand on the Lokpal Bill versus the actual Jan Lokpal Bill as political parties have simply voiced their support for Hazare – a political inevitability as no right thinking individual, group or party can afford to do otherwise under the current circumstances.

A full-fledged debate in parliament on the Lokpal Bill would have brought real clarity on the issue as the reality is that no political party can afford to vote for Hazare’s version of the Lokpal Bill in total as it goes against the grain of the current system and the powers of members of parliament. One of the features of the Jan Lokpal Bill, for example, is that it seeks to bring all MPs and their conduct in parliament under its ambit.

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The UPA government has not only misread the mood of the nation, but also not bothered to follow obvious political and parliamentary compulsions. The government and the Congress party is clearly losing its marbles with its unnecessary foot dragging on the Lokpal debate when doing just the opposite – what Team Anna wants – would have served their own cause better. Another mistake was the government decision to invite people’s views on the Lokpal Bill by inserting huge advertisements in today’s newspapers – it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Someone should ask the Congress and the government who their advisors are, because they are lacking the political astuteness that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh showed in his first term in office.