Rahul Gandhi says Lokpal alone won’t be enough, widens ambit

Congress General secretary and son of Congress President Sonia Gandhi has made a statement in the Parliament today on the ongoing anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare.

Rahul Gandhi, widely seen as Congress’ Prime Ministerial candidate after the term of Manmohan Singh, thanked Anna Hazare for “articulating” the anti-corruption sentiment of the people.

“The real question is whether we ready to take the battle against corruption head on.. Witnessing the events of the last few days, it will appear that the passing of a single bill will achieve this aim.. I have serious reservations on this,” he said

He called for further laws to make way for government funding of elections and political parties, transparency in government procurement, proper regulation of sectors that fuel corruption like mining, delivery of pension and ration cards etc..

“We speak of a statutory Lok Pal but our discussions cease at the point of its accountability to the people and the risk that it might itself become corrupt,” he asked.

“[Individuals] must not weaken the democratic process. This process is often lengthy and lumbering. But it is so in order to be inclusive and fair. It provides a representative and transparent platform where ideas are translated into laws.

“A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected Government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy,” he said.

Rahul seemed to be willing to widen the scope of the intended Lokpal, calling for it to be a constitutional body rather than just a statutory (legal) body.

“It is a game changing idea.. an independent body like the election Commission,” said Rahul Gandhi, speaking to media people as he was getting into his car. Asked why he kept quiet for so long over this controversial idea, he said he wanted to think through it.

Team Anna, however, criticized the widening of ambit and said, in effect, let us first put in something that works before trying for bigger things. They pointed out that putting up a constitutional body is much more difficult compared to what has been suggested by team Anna.

“What Rahul Gandhi is suggesting is a “five year plan.” What we want is a statutory body that will work when they put up a Constitutional body. A constitutional body will take another 40 years,” said Justice Santosh Hegde, former Lokayukta of Karnataka and one of Anna’s core team.

Rahul Gandhi’s speech, however, was repeatedly shouted down by the opposition, who see the Government playing the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine in its dealing with the biggest protests in India in the last 35 years. The opposition is not keen on letting the Congress walk away with any credit for installing the Lokpal.

However, going by today’s statement, the Congress seems intent to do just that.

The Government has found itself on the backfoot in the last few days after an unprecedented outpouring of support for the veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare for his fast against corruption. Hazare, who has been on fast for 11 days at Delhi Ramlila Maidan, has been demanding the passage of a tough Anti-corruption legislation known as Jan Lokpal bill.

The Bill seeks to set up an anti-graft watch-dog with representation down to the district level. The organization will take complaints from the people, conduct investigations and launch prosecutions in the Courts.

The model has been constructed largely on similar institutions in the Scandinavian countries, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Rahul Gandhi is seen as directing the Government’s so far unsuccessful attempts to control the movement.


Team Anna suspicious of Rahul Gandhi’s suggestion to widen scope of Lokpal struggle

Most requests are for non-voting discussion on Lokpal – Meira Kumar