Parliament reverberated today with the repercussions of Anna Hazare’s arrest as the Opposition came out in unanimous support of the activist’s right to peaceful protest and rejected the government’s claim that the arrest was made to uphold parliamentary supremacy. It sought unconditional permission for Anna’s fast.
Leaders of Opposition in both Houses - Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitely in the Rajya Sabha - tore into Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s defence that the government was duty-bound to maintain peace when some sections (read Anna and team) challenged its authority and Parliament’s prerogative to make laws. “The issue is not whether a Lokpal Bill is necessary; the question is who drafts the law,” the PM said in a statement justifying Anna’s arrest. The Opposition dismissed his contentions that Anna’s campaign was a confrontation between Parliament and the civil society, with Jaitely asking if anyone had ever disputed Parliament’s right to make laws. “The question is not who drafts the law; the question is that people have the right to express views on those laws,” he said, ripping into PM’s arguments that the government arrested Anna to protect democratic principles which he was questioning by seeking to foist his version of the Lokpal Bill on Parliament and wanting to fast towards that end. The debate happened under Rule 193.
The PM’s statement merely listed events leading up to Anna’s arrest and snubbed the Gandhian saying those who believe their voice alone represents the will of 1.2 billion persons should reflect on that position. “Many forces will not like to see us realise our true place. We must not play into their hands,” the PM warned. In the LS, he was repeatedly disrupted and Speaker Meira Kumar had to request for calm.
His statement had the Opposition wondering who drafted it. Jaitely had an answer when he took a dig at P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khursheed. He said: “This is the problem with a government that has too many lawyers advising it. It invokes Section 144 of the CrPC for what is a political solution.”