On the first day of their indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday, Team Anna launched a scathing attack on Pranab Mukherjee — just hours after he took oath as President — to highlight its demands for a SIT to investigate corruption charges against 15 Union ministers and a strong Lokpal.
Mukherjee’s picture on the “tainted” list was kept covered, apparently a symbolic representation of how the Constitution was being used to “shield” him. The allegations levelled against Mukherjee pertained mainly to the rice export scam, Navy War Room leak, Scorpene deal and interference in SEBI investigations against companies like Reliance and Sahara.
Arvind Kejriwal in his speech claimed that had the probe that India Against Corruption (IAC) has been demanding been ordered, Mukherjee would have moved to the country’s highest office either “taint-free or not at all”.
In her speech, Kiran Bedi said, “If there was an independent Lokpal, the country may have had a different person in Rashtrapati Bhawan.”
Though in the run-up to the fast it was the SIT demand that was the focus of Kejriwal and fellow Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan, the discourse clearly moved back towards the Lokpal agenda with Anna Hazare’s re-entry into the scene on Tuesday and his announcement that he will fast from July 29.
Incidentally, the Lokpal agenda had not been mentioned in the posters circulated over the past couple of months to announce the fast.
On Wednesday, the speeches, songs and slogans focussed on Lokpal; Hazare’s speech had little else and no mention whatsoever of the SIT demand. “If Lokpal Bill had been passed, 65% corruption would have ended,” Hazare claimed.
It was left to Kejriwal and Bhushan to outline the allegations against ministers. Apart from Mukherjee, allegations against four others were discussed — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former minister Virbhadra Singh, Home Minister P Chidambaram and HRD and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.
IAC sources said the apparent dithering on agenda is not significant because SIT is a part of the Lokpal agenda and Lokpal is a concept that people are familiar with and so it is easier to explain it to them than the complicated charges against ministers. Besides the anthem is for Lokpal, not SIT.
“Why Lokpal has not happened despite recurrent agitations over the last year and half is because there are these 15 tainted ministers in the Union Cabinet,” Kejriwal said after explaining in detail the objections Team Anna has on the government Lokpal Bill.
They should write to UN: Khurshid
Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday took a dig at Team Anna, saying they were raising issues which have been rejected by the Supreme Court and if they did not have any faith in it, they could approach the United Nations. “They should write to the United Nations. In India what can be more independent than the Supreme Court. They want independent probe into matters which have been rejected and disapproved by the Supreme Court,” he said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, meanwhile, said the proposed Lokpal legislation was being examined by a select committee of Parliament. “The Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha. It was brought to the Rajya Sabha which is mandatory. There were over 185 amendments. There was so much discussion. It could not be passed,” she said.