Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lokpal Bill: Cong dubs Anna's videography demand as idiotic

As controversy dogged the ten-member jointcommittee comprising five Union ministers and five social activists includingAnna Hazare to draft theJan Lokpal Bill even before it started work, the Congress on Monday rejected the demand for videographing the proceedings.

Saying that filming the meeting would inhibit candid discussions, the Congress added that the stakeholders should focus on 'substance' and not waste time on 'form'. A senior party leader, who did not wished to be named, termed the suggestion for videography "idiotic". The party also indicated that agreeing to this "extra-constitutional arrangement" was a one-time affair because of the extraordinary situation and the prevailing national mood against corruption.
HRD minister Kapil Sibal (left) and anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare."Let us not form take the place of substance... Please do not put conditions and pre-conditions which might obstruct the basic objective... Statesmanship and maturity is required from every stakeholder," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, adding "transparency should not become artificial or hypocritical decision making without candour. Therefore, balancing is very important." Meanwhile, a fresh row erupted on Monday with Hazare asking HRD minister Kapil Sibal to resign from the committee, if he feels nothing will come out of this institution.

His colleagues in the campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill - Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal - also slammed Sibal, who, however, denied having made any such contentious statement.

Clarifying his earlier remarks, the HRD minister said what he had meant was that the scope of the Bill is different and the problems of the common man are different.

"We want to draft a strong bill to tackle corruption in any sector where it is rampant... I will sit together with Hazare to draft a comprehensive bill so that we achieve our goals," Sibal said.

"I said that if you want to educate children, then this has no connection to Lokpal. If there is no water... Lokpal is only connected to corruption and we will bring a good Bill that will stop corruption," the telecom minister added.

Reacting sharply to Sibal's remarks, Anna said: "Why is he (Sibal) wasting his and our time? He should do other things for the country. Why does he want to be in the committee? If you believe that nothing will happen, you should not be there in the joint committee, he should resign and do some other work." Anna Hazare had demanded that the entire proceedings of the committee be videographed to ensure transparency.

Singhvi downplayed Hazare's demand for the resignation of Sibal for reportedly belittling significance of the Lokpal Bill for the common man saying: "We should not queer the pitch." He said the government had bent over backwards on the procedure. "Our constitutional and opposition in principle to the procedure remains," Singhvi said.

Salman Khurshid, minister for water resources, also a member of the drafting committee, said a decision to videograph the procedures of the committee would have to be taken jointly by the members.

"The procedure about making public or televising whatever happens there, will be decided by the committee itself," he said. "I cannot comment on it as an individual," he said, adding the draft on Lokpal Bill was of high priority and will be ready soon." "What we have seen so far is a skirmish over procedure, the real battle has started now," a senior party leader said, noting that the Congress and the government had walked the extra mile as Hazare's campaign legitimates outpouring on the issue of corruption and not a political campaign.

The Congress said it was churlish to think that the deliberations in the panel will be "hush-hush". "The members are free to brief the media on what transpired at the meeting and we are sure the social activists would love to do so," a Congress leader said.

A senior party leader said Parliament's standing committee meetings were held in camera and they were functioning effectively.

"The moment they are videographed or opened to the media, the members will try to play to the gallery as they do in Parliament," the leader added.

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