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Anna Hazare rides wrath yatra, ups ante on Jan Lokpal Bill

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ANNA HAZARE DEMANDING FOR JAN-LOKPAL BILL

Emboldened by the swelling crowds at Ramlila Maidan, Gandhian anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare upped the ante within hours of emerging from Tihar Jail on Friday. He set a three-week deadline for Parliament to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, pending which he wouldn’t budge from the ground. This was not only contrary to his group’s commitment to vacate the protest site by August 31, but was also seen to be brushing aside parliamentary processes as no such deadline is set for standing committees to study draft legislations in detail.

The ultimatum marks a hardening of stand which could queer the pitch for negotiations and a settlement to the dramatic face-off. While Team Anna has insisted on the Lokpal Bill being passed in the monsoon session ending September 8, it had refrained from setting a deadline for the passage of their version of the bill, maintaining that they respected Parliament and would abide by its decision.

Anna also gave a call for a jail-bharo campaign if the deadline was not met. Although his associate Prashant Bhushan said they were open to negotiations with the government, the ultimatum narrows the scope of a settlement. Taken by surprise by the groundswell of support for Anna, government leaders seemed inclined to wait out Anna’s protest, reckoning that it would be difficult for his team to sustain this level of popular support.

Addressing the media at Ramlila Maidan, the 74-year-old Anna said: “I have made the decision of my life. It is up to the government to pass the (Jan Lokpal) bill. If it is not passed in this session, I will continue my fast till my last breath.” The pledge drew huge applause from his growing band of supporters. His aide Arvind Kejriwal brazenly declared the group’s lack of faith in parliamentary democracy. “Parliament is not supreme, the public is,” he said. “It’s our right to raise our voice against corruption and the elected representatives must hear it.”

Asked if the three-week deadline was not impractical, Anna shot back that it was the government’s headache. “They have the majority in Parliament and it is up to them to see how they get the bill passed,” he said.

There is, however, a view that two private member’s bills – introduced by BJP’s Varun Feroze Gandhi in Lok Sabha and independent member Rajiv Chandrashekhar in Rajya Sabha — can offer a way out.

Varun plans to move the Jan Lokpal Bill as his bill, while Chandrashekhar’s bill has incorporated features of civil society’s version of the legislation.

Since the grouse of the civil society is that Parliament won’t get to debate the merits of their bill, the two private members’ bills can give the two Houses an opportunity to assess the merits of the two rival pieces of legislation, potentially clearing the way for a resolution.

However, procedures and conventions may come in the way. A private member’s bill can be introduced in the House only after a month’s notice. While Varun Gandhi hasn’t yet formally sought the Speaker’s permission to move the bill, Chandrashekhar submitted his bill in the first week of August. So, neither has a month’s time to be taken up for adoption in this session. Still, extraordinary situations often lead to “creative” solutions. Perhaps, with the House’s permission, the process may be fast-tracked.

Prashant Bhushan told the media: “We are not afraid of discussions. If somebody from the government wants to discuss, we have no problems. But we are not ready to compromise on corruption.”

Kejriwal added that nobody from the government has approached them so far for discussions.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Anna-Hazare-rides-wrath-yatra-ups-ante-on-Jan-Lokpal-Bill/articleshow/9666529.cms

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