Hazare breaks fast, cold-shoulders AAP
Anna Hazare today broke his nine-day fast shortly after Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal Bill, and announced he would form “watchdog bodies”
Ralegan Siddhi: Anna Hazare today broke his nine-day fast shortly after Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal Bill, and announced he would form “watchdog bodies” comprising people of “impeccable integrity” to keep an eye on how the law is enforced.
Looking a bit frail yet brimming with enthusiasm after the landmark bill was passed by the Lok Sabha, Hazare thanked all parties, barring Samajwadi Party, for their support, but obliquely criticised his former proteges in the Aaam Aadmi Party, his fellow travellers in the Jan Lokpal movement, who have dubbed the new legislation as “Jokepal” bill.
Hazare, who had been crusading for anti-corruption ombudsman for long and had forced passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha in 2011 through his fast at Ramlila Maidan, hoped the bill is signed into a law within 1-2 months.
The 76-year-old Gandhian, however, said mere enactment of the law would not serve the purpose and announced he would form “watchdog bodies” in states and districts to keep an eye on how the law was being enforced.
“The law will be meaningless unless it is implemented and enforced properly. I will constitute watchdog bodies at all levels…in states, districts everywhere.
“These bodies having retired judges, state police chiefs and others with impeccable integrity will keep vigilance on how the law is implemented. Only then the people will benefit from this law,” he said.
Hazare, who thanked everybody, from MPs to political parties, Rajya Sabha’s Select Committee, to policemen at his fast venue, the ‘pandalwala’ to the doctors who looked after him during the hunger strike, his fourth for Lokpal, chose not to make any mention of Arvind Kejriwal and others from the AAP, who played a role in building the movement.
Instead, before beginning his speech, Hazare chastised some people standing in front of TV cameras, to apparently target Kejriwal and his band of media-savvy supporters.
“The country or society does not benefit from people who stand before cameras. If I had chosen to stand in front of the cameras, I would not have reached where I have,” he said.
The anti-graft crusader had ordered a frontline AAP leader Gopal Rai out of his fast venue and village after he had engaged in a spat with former Army chief General V K Singh, who had slammed Kejriwal and others for having deserted Hazare and formed a political party.
Hazare had special praise for the Select Committee, which included several provisions for strengthening the Lokpal Bill after it was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011.
“I thank the Select Committee on behalf of Ralegan Siddhi family and people of the country. The bill passed by the Lok Sabha was weak. The improvements made by the Select Committee are in conformity with the aspirations of the people,” he said.
“I thank all members the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha with folded hands as they have taken a good step for the country. For the first time in 66 years a law is set to be made that would put brakes on corruption,” he said, adding though the law will not completely stamp out graft, it would certainly being it down by 40-50 per cent.
He also thanked Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and BJP leaders for “awakening” the parties who later backed the legislation.
Hazare voiced hope that the bill would be signed into a law within 1-2 months, before the model code of conduct for next year’s general elections kicks in.
“Then people would know of the smallest things envisaged in the law and they would be able to reap its benefits,” he said.
Though Hazare hardly had any good word for his former comrades, his key aide and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi seemed to acknowledge their role in the Lokpal movement when she thanked “all those who laid the foundation of the movement” on the “historic occasion”.
She too, however, said those who thought the Lokpal Bill did not have provisions to check corruption effectively, were not correct.
“Anna kept track of what was transpiring in the Select Committee and knew for sure that things were proceeding in the right direction,” she said.
“The Lokpal will be the Supreme Court in matters of corruption. CBI will no longer be a caged parrot but a free bird. Lokpal is the fruit of Anna’s penance and sacrifice. Parliament has given the credit for Lokpal without him soliciting it,” she said as jubilant Hazare supporters danced to the popular Hindi film number “Dil Diya Hai, Jaan Bhi Denge, Aye Watan Tere Liye”.
She said now the task ahead was to see how a good Lokpal is constituted at the Centre and states set up the Lokayuktas.
“The people in states should demand Lokayuktas to be set up and make their votes conditional to parties which favour establishing the institution,” she said.
She hit out at Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party opposed the Lokpal Bill, saying “Mulayam feared officers would now not sign on the files. No, they will sign but after giving due thought. They will tender advice to the ministers who will take correct decision lest anybody goes to the Lokpal with a complaint.”
General V K Singh congratulated the people on the passage of the “historic legislation”.
“All major hurdles have been crossed, but it is important how the provisions of the bill are implemented,” he said.
Hazare later drank a glass of coconut water offered by three school children from Ralegan Siddhi to break his fast.