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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

LK Advani's yatra to snatch Anna initiative?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been calibrating its response to Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement and the Gandhian team’s insistence on Jan Lokpal Bill is an attempt not to lose its position as the opposition party that nailed the government on the corruption issue.

Party leader LK Advani’s decision to go on an anti-corruption ‘rath yatra’, to get off some time in October, seems to a belated attempted to snatch the initiative from Hazare and regain for itself the prime position of the main adversary of the government.

The party’s calculated interaction with the Hazare team during the social activist’s fast-unto-death at Ramlila Maidan reveals the party’s gambit to retain its political advantage. The party was not all for Hazare though party president Nitin Gadkari made it appear so in his letters to Hazare and in his public statements.

During Hazare’s fast for the Jan Lokpal Bill last month, it was godman Sri Sri Ravi Sankar who met the BJP leaders and arranged for a meeting between the two sides.

According to highly placed sources, BJP leaders found the Jan Lokpal Bill as thorny and unacceptable because it seemed to go beyond the confines of the Constitution.

When Sri Sri Ravi Sankar came to the home of a senior BJP leader and discussed the issue for over two hours, the party’s stand was made clear to him. But they were ready to meet the Hazare team. When he went back to Ramlila Maidan with the BJP leaders’ willingness to meet them, the Hazare team backed off when a supposedly anti-BJP journalist warned that it would not be the right thing to do.

“We cannot come. The media is here,” was the message from Ramlila Maidan to the BJP top brass.

Two days later, a larger team than initially mooted landed at the BJP leader’s home and the meeting between the leaders of the main opposition party and the Hazare team turned out well.

Leaders of the BJP convinced the Hazare team members that some of the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill were totally unacceptable. One of the thorny issues was that of the constitutional immunity of the members of parliament and the bureaucracy. Team Anna agreed to the objections raised by the BJP leaders.

At the all-party meeting convened by the government, when finance minister Pranab Mukherjee showed the draft of the government bill, Advani found it unacceptable.

Then Mukherjee and Advani went out, accompanied by BJP leaders in parliament Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. Mukherjee and the BJP leaders were in a huddle for about 20 minutes. The finance minister was advised to incorporate some of the Jan Lokpal provisions without making an explicit reference to it.


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