The government may have caved in before anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare by agreeing to set up a joint committee to write the Lokpal bill. But the mood within the Congress is anything but conciliatory towards the 72-year-old Gandhian.
Party leaders are already talking of ways to “expose” those allied with Hazare during his four-day fast to succeed in doing what the Oppposition failed to do. Arvind Kejriwal, the RTI activist who played a key role in the stir, has come under their scrutiny.
Some Congress leaders are nopt hesistating to blame Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for bowing before Hazare “too fast” without realizing the “consequences of accepting” his demand.
These leaders are now counting on “fireworks” during the deliberations of the proposed joint committee to thwart any meaningful draft bill.
“Why do we panic whenever someone goes on fast?” asked a Congress functionary. “We landed in trouble over Telegana because we mishandled fast by TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao. Now, we have succumbed to Anna.”
In fact, Union minister Kapil Sibal’s dig at the institution of the Lokpal is believed to be a strategy by some Congress leaders though he withdrew his remark after Hazare said Sibal should resign from the joint committee “if he feels nothing will happen” out of this institution.
Sibal had told a public meeting, “I ask this question, if a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services then he will call up a politician. How will Lokpal bill help?”
Clarifying his earlier remarks, Sibal said what he had meant was that “the scope of the Bill is different. The problems of the common man are different. I said that if you want to educate children, then this has no connection to Lokpal. If there is no convenience of water…Lokpal is only connected to corruption and we will bring a good bill that will stop corruption.”
Congress leaders are also upset by Anna Hazare’s plean to videograph the proceedings of the joint committee for transparency. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is heading the panel, and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid have not outrightly reject Hazare’s demand. But crisis managers led by Ahmed Patel are looking a strategy to trash the anti-corruption crusaders.
If the bill were to reach the draft stage, Congress managers hope, leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Lalu Prasad, who are soft on corruption, will try to block the bill in Parliament on one pretext or the other. That should serve the Congress’ interest. Eventually, the party leaders count on the movement itself cooling off in the days to come. Anna Hazare, however, is in no mood to oblige the cynics among them.