Proposed anti-graft law divides activists

Anti-corruption icon Hazare and protege Kejriwal fall out over the contents of the bill for an independent ombudsman.

The Aam Admi Party was born out of the anti-corruption movement few years ago [AP]

India’s anti-corruption movement appears to have suffered a setback with two of its key proponents divided on the Lokpal (independent ombudsman) bill pending passage in parliament.

The prime mover of the movement Anna Hazare says he supports the Lokpal bill while his protege, chief of the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s party) Arvind Kejriwal has said the bill in the current form is a diluted version of the original proposal, reports quoting them said on Monday.

The bill which is pending passage in the upper house (Rajya Sabha) of parliament is scheduled to come up on Monday. But with the death of a former union minister Sis Ram Lola, parliament may be adjourned as a mark of respect. In that case, the bill will be up for passage on Tuesday.

On Friday, an ally of the ruling coalition, the regional Samajwadi party blocked the bill from being passed by disrupting discussion in the Rajya Sabha.

The ally criticised the bill as it said that investigation agencies were being unfettered and that the political class must retain control.

Reports say that the ruling Congress on Sunday convinced its ally to let the bill through.

The Lokpal bill envisages the creation of an independent ombudsman who will have the powers to investigate charges of corruption against any official in government including the prime minister.

The differences of opinion in the leadership of the anti-corruption movement have arisen over the extent of autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). There are also differences on whether officials need to be informed about charges against them before a raid is conducted on their premises and offices.

The proposed law does not give total autonomy to the CBI and intends informing officials of corruption charges against them before any action is taken.

Hazare’s view is to support the bill and later demand amendments to tighten it while Kejriwal says a diluted version will not serve the purpose in having an independent ombudsman.

The division of views is seen as a setback since the Lokpal bill is at the heart of the anti-corruption movement which has created waves in the country since its inception in 2011. Earlier, Hazare had all but parted ways with Kejriwal over the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party which he had opposed.

The 76-year-old Hazare is on an indefinite fast since December 10 demanding passage of the Lokpal bill. Kejriwal has turned into a celebrity since the spectacular showing of his Aam Aadmi Party in the recent assembly elections in Delhi.

Source: Al Jazeera