Nine opposition parties, including the Left, on Friday termed the government version of the Lokpal Bill as “unacceptable” and said they would jointly organise nationwide protests next week to demand an effective legislation to curb corruption in high places.
“We have decided to conduct demonstrations, dharnas and other forms of protests all over the country against rampant corruption and growing attacks on democratic rights” on August 23, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat told a press conference after a meeting of the nine parties here.
CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan said, “We may even demand its (government Lokpal bill’s) withdrawal if necessary”, while Mr. Karat said the parties would express their opinion in the parliamentary Standing Committee looking into the legislation.
Mr. Karat and Mr. Bardhan were accompanied by top leaders - N Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), H D Deve Gowda (JD-S), Ajit Singh (RLD), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc), Abani Roy (RSP) among others. M Thambidurai (AIADMK) and Bhratruhari Mahtab (BJD) also attended the meeting.
Asked whether this agitation would pave the way for a Third Front, Karat merely said, “These are issue-based protests. .... Earlier, we had jointly organised all-India hartal on the issue of price rise“.
On whether they would organise a ‘Bharat Bandh’, Mr. Karat said this was the beginning of a nationwide anti-corruption campaign. “We will meet again after August 23 to decide on the future course”.
To a question whether they would coordinate with the BJP-led NDA, he said the nine parties were organising their own programmes. “The NDA has also expressed that the government version of the Bill does not serve the purpose”, he said, adding all opposition parties were organising their own agitational programmes.
Referring to the deliberations at the meeting of leaders of the nine parties, Mr. Karat said the “most burning issue” of “rampant corruption” and the anti-corruption agitation by Anna Hazare was discussed threadbare.
The leaders were of the “unanimous opinion that the government bill is unacceptable. It is a weak and ineffective bill. We want an effective Lokpal legislation,” he said.
A mechanism to curb corruption in the judiciary was also discussed and the parties felt that the Judicial Accountability law, to be passed by Parliament, should include the creation of a National Judicial Commission to deal with such issues. “The present (judicial accountability) bill is also insufficient,” Mr. Karat said.
While electoral reforms to curb money power and criminality in elections were needed, effective measures are also required to unearth blackmoney stashed away abroad, he said.
Condemning the way Hazare and his supporters were arrested, Mr. Karat said these “assaults on democratic rights are rising. .... In Delhi, if you plan to protest, you have to abide by 21 conditions set by the police. It is the same situation elsewhere. You have to fill up forms and give undertakings and there are various other restrictions”.
Replying to questions on the Lokpal bill, Mr. Karat said, “The government bill is not adequate. The public mood is against it... as it will not serve the purpose.”
“If the government is willing, we are prepared to discuss with it. As of now, we have decided to mobilise the people against it,” he said.
The Left and other parties have already held two nationwide strikes this year - on April 27 and July five - to protest against rise in prices of essential commodities and petroleum products.