Electoral reforms may be Hazare's next plank

Electoral reforms may be Hazare's next plank

Electoral reforms may be Hazare's next plank

"Money power, muscle power and mafia influence in elections are of concern among the general public. I believe Anna and colleagues are giving a serious thought to the issue," a key functionary of the India Against Corruption (IAC) - the movement which spearheaded the campaign for a stringent Lokpal bill - told IANS.

He said that electoral reforms have been on the national agenda for several decades, but without much action. "Now that the Election Commission (EC) is also making efforts to cleanse the system, it will be a topical issue," he said.

On Friday, even Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi admitted at a conference here that there was a perception that candidates were spending huge amounts above the permitted levels. "When someone spends Rs.10 crore to become an MP, he will expect to make Rs.20 crore while in office," Quraishi said.

Quraishi said the fast of Anna Hazare was "unfortunate" and was "avoidable if there were sufficient safety valves in the system to prevent it from bursting like at Jantar Mantar (where Hazare held the fast)".

On the organisational front, the Hazare supporters are enthusiastic. "We are overwhelmed. We have got more than expected - in the agreement from the government and through support from the public across the country," Swami Agnivesh, social activist and one of the three civil society representatives who spoke to the government on the Lokpal Bill, told IANS.

Despite the big triumph, the movement had its share of internal frictions, though the leaders dicount them as "natural in any organisation".

Agnivesh said reports of divisions in the movement "were highly exaggerated". "When a
movement expands and catches the imagination of the public, all kinds of people come in.

That does not mean they are hijacking the movement," he said.

That was evident at Jantar Mantar too Saturday. As Agnivesh was offering water to volunteers to break their fast, two young men held a banner bearing slogans against him. It read : "I love Indian Army. Why is Agnivesh and Prashant Bhushan filing PIL (public interest litigation) against Indian Army?".

According to sources, there was a tussule between Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders for a berth in the joint draft committee on the Lokpal Bill. "There was a strong view that Kiran Bedi or some other leaders should have been selected," the sources said.

The five civil society members on the panel are Anna Hazare, former Supreme Court judge N. Santosh Hegde, advocates Shanti and Prashant Bhushan and activist Arvind Kejriwal.

Political analysts felt there was an effort by some organised socio-political groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the followers of emerging religious figures like Sri Sri  Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev to dominate the show at times - by raising slogans, displaying placards and organising 'havans'.

"But Hazare and aides appeared to have managed to keep a balance and avoid any hijack by former BJP leader Uma Bharti, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala or the like. And besides hosting Hindu leaders, Hazare supporters made it a point to share the honours on the dais with Muslim and Sikh leaders and even the archbishop of New Delhi," analyst Yogesh Vajpeyi told IANS.

Quoting Hazare, Agnivesh said the "movement has a long way to go". "The expectations of people from us are big."

Hazare ended his 'fast unto death' Saturday morning after the government issued a notification on the formation of the panel, including five civil society members, to draft the anti-graft bill that will be introduced in the monsoon session of parliament.