Friday, September 02, 2011

Who won? Anna or Government?

New Delhi: Did Anna Hazare win the battle of Lokpal? Yes, say some. Others feel differently. And yet others said both the government and Team Anna had to make compromises to finally shake hands.

Veteran journalist S. Nihal Singh said Hazare scored only "half a victory". That is because Team Anna had to be flexible, added analyst N. Bhaskara Rao. Commentator Cho Ramaswamy, however, mocked Hazare.
Who won? Anna or Government?

"What they were able to achieve was to put corruption on the front burner. It did strike a chord among the people, especially youth," Nihal Singh told IANS.

He said the initial demands of Team Hazare was for the acceptance of the Jan Lokpal bill and fixing a deadline for its passage in parliament. But this could never have been accepted by a government in a parliamentary system.

"Their original demands were impossible. But they made their point across the country," he said.

Bowing to nationwide protests in support of Hazare, the government convened a special parliament session Saturday.

After hours of debate, the house embraced Hazare's three key demands: Lokayuktas in every state, citizen's charter in each government department and inclusion of lower bureaucracy under Lokpal.

The next day, Hazare ended his fast, on its 13th day.

N. Bhaskara Rao, founder and chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, credited Team Hazare with flexibility during negotiations to reach a solution in a spirit of give and take with the long-term view of seeing a corruption-free India.

"The (Jan Lokpal) bill was only symbolic... The entire nation has been awakened. There was natinowide awareness and resolve to fight corruption," Rao told IANS.

Rao said that the 13-day fast by Hazare and the nationwide solidarity protests involving tens of thousands led to "deepening of democracy" and showed that parliament and civil society needed to work together while drafting legislative measures.

The point was accepted by Law Minister Salman Khurshid Saturday. And shedding the government's earlier hardline stand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heaped praise on the 74-year-old Hazare.

Rao said Team Hazare cannot be faulted for taking maximalist positions initially. "They have yielded for a better cause. It is not a compromise."

Chennai-based political analyst Cho Ramaswamy felt differently. He said it was Team Hazare that made one climbdown after another.

"I don't know what is being celebrated. They went on climbing down. They kept giving up one demand after the other."

Ramaswamy said Team Hazare first wanted the Jan Lokpal bill to be passed by Aug 30 and later said they wanted at least voice vote on their three key demands. But parliament only adopted a "sense of the house" statement.

So was there a give and take? "All gives were from the Anna side and all takes were from the government side."

Ramaswamy added that Hazare and his associates wanted the prime minister and the judiciary within the ambit of Lokpal but the government had not given any written commitment.

He branded some parts of the Jan Lokpal Bill as impracticable.

Ramaswamy said Hazare initially agreed to a 15-day protest but turned it into an indefinite protest "after seeing the crowds at Ramlila Maidan".

Hazare confidants are, however, happy. Hazare himself has called the outcome of the campaign a "half victory" and said more battles would have to be fought.

Hazare began his fast Aug 16 after he was detained by Delhi Police and sent to jail. He moved to the sprawling Ramlila ground three days later, by which time he had become a household name.

The Congress gave credit to the government for finding an acceptable solution.

Law Minister Khurshid admitted that the government may have made "errors of judgement" in handling the fast but said it was determined to retrieve the situation.

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