A day after social activist Anna Hazare launched his fast-unto-death on the Lokpal Bill issue, Government on Wednesday said it was was open to any suggestion on the proposed legislation and had not turned down his demand for a joint committee.
Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said that the government was open to suggestions even though it was “anxious to introduce the Bill in the next session”.
He said the government “did not say no” on demand for a Joint Committee to draft the bill after a sub-committee of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption held discussions with representatives of Hazare and other members of civil society.
“Even on the demand for joint committee, we said we were open. We never closed our mind even on the formation of joint committee…In principle we did not say no,” Moily said adding, that the Prime Minister was open to all suggestions on the bill.
He said though the bill has already been drafted, it will not “find a finality” unless it goes to Parliamentary Standing Committee.
“The Standing Committee can always throw it open to discussions and deliberations with everyone. No bill is passed in hide and seek manner. Parliament has the most transparent way of functioning in our country,” Moily said.
72-year-old Hazare is observing a fast-unto-death demanding enactment of an anti-corruption bill to give wider powers to the Ombudsman.
He is pressing for formation of a joint committee comprising 50 per cent officials and the remaining citizens and intellectuals to draft the Bill.
When pointed out that the BJP too had embarked on a anti-corruption campaign on Wednesday, the reformist said the party was taking advantage of the nationwide movement he had begun.
“But, they are a political party and are free to do as they wish. In the past too, when I agitated against corruption in the BJP government, the Congress party supported me. Now, its the other way around”, Hazare said.
On Tuesday, BJP leaders Maneka Gandhi and Prakash Javadekar visited Hazare’s protest site at Jantar Mantar but did not make any speeches.
JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav too sat on the dais with Hazare and offered his support for the Jan Lokpal Bill and even said he was ready to take it up in Parliament. Hazare said he would not allow politicians to sit with him on the dais anymore.
Hazare began his hunger strike at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday after paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at his Samadhi at Rajghat.
Swami Agnivesh, former IPS officer and activist Kiran Bedi and Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey are among those who have come out in his support.
In his home state Maharashtra, anti-graft groups and activists too rooted for the cause with protesters taking to streets in Mumbai.
A rally of around 100 cars and bikes was organised from Shivaji Park in central Mumbai to Azad Maidan last morning as part of the protest.
Over one thousand members of general public and NGOs also participated in the protest.