Anna Hazare broke his fast after over 288 hours on Sunday morning announcing that this was just a deferment. “I have only deferred my fast, not given it up. Only when these reforms are complete will I really end my fast. I will not rest until all the changes that I look to are achieved,” he said to thunderous applause from thousands of his supporters waving the tricolour and shouting slogans like ‘Anna Hazare Zindabad’.
Keen to press home the advantage gained in the last fortnight, Supreme Court lawyer and Anna aide Prashant Bhushan demanded that the government deliver on its assurance and convene a special session of Parliament as it had assured. “We hope that the government convenes a special session of Parliament within a month’s time to pass Lokpal bill,” Bhushan said. He added, “We can’t trust the government or political parties. We will have to keep a close watch on them… But they can’t easily resile from the resolution now.”
While political opinion appears to be overwhelmingly in favour of Team Anna’s demands, there were apprehensions from certain quarters that the issue may be delayed in the standing committee and may meet the same fate as earlier drafts. Allaying such fears, standing committee chairman Abhishek Singhvi said, “I have no hesitation in repeating that given a fair and balanced opportunity, my distinguished committee which I have the privilege to chair is likely to surprise all cynics, sceptics and non-believers.”
Even political scientists said it would be difficult for the government now to go slow. Yogendra Yadav said, “I don’t see Parliament going against the resolution that it adopted.” He explained that the reason was not the resolution itself that could always be changed by Parliament. “What binds them is popular sentiment. They know that political establishment has lost legitimacy on the issue of corruption.” In fact, he said, there would be competition for a stronger Lokpal. Some would say Lokpal should be a constitutional body, others would make different suggestions.
When asked about the fear in certain quarters that government and Congress could resile from the commitment made in the sense of House resolutions, Singhvi, in his capacity as Congress spokesperson, said, “I completely reject and deprecate scarecrow suggestions which amount to tilting at windmills that after such a long, open and vigorously transparent provision, continuing for days on an hourly basis before both the media and in Parliament, the whole process can simply be reversed, buried, delayed or frustrated.”
He further said, “Such extreme pessimism is neither good for the individual nor for the country. On the contrary, we should be proud of the win-win for Indian democracy as a whole where both government and civil society have reciprocally reached out to each other under the full scrutiny of every interested member of the polity.”
Opposition BJP too does not see the government going back on the Lokpal bill, or moving away from the spirit of the resolution adopted by Parliament. Speaking in Nagpur, BJP president Nitin Gadkari assured Hazare of BJP’s continued support, saying the party would stand solidly behind him in his “selfless endeavour to transform society”.
“We promise you that the BJP will always be ready to rally around you and march forward under your leadership should the need arise any time in future to fulfill your dream of a truly democratic corruption free India,” Gadkari said.
He added, “Anna, rest assured, we will not let you down in and outside Parliament. Nor will we allow the government to betray you further.”
Asked whether the BJP had any apprehension of the government not sticking to the resolution adopted in Parliament, Rajya Sabha MP and party spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said, “I don’t think government has any choice because a sensible consensus has already emerged on various points which should be included in the bill. So, we are confident that an effective Lokpal can emerge within the constitutional framework, if the government makes an honest effort.”
Sitaram Yechury, CPM leader in Rajya Sabha, also did not think that Parliament would go against its own resolution for a strong Lokpal bill.
However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi taking different lines on the bill while speaking in Parliament is the only thing which could come in the way of the final shape of the bill, feel some BJP MPs, since that shows a clear divide between Congress and the government. But even in that case, BJP feels it would be difficult for the government to go back on what it has promised, for the fear of a backlash from the people.