People's will

It would be wrong to consider the acceptance ‘’in principle’’ by the government of the demands made by civil society led by Anna Hazare about the Lokpal bill as a victory for one side and defeat for the other. The tumultuous, spontaneous and wide support received by Hazare showed that the people were behind him. Therefore, the climbdown made by the government on Saturday is a victory of the people, not of a group of persons. Hazare was only an agent of the people who made the government realise that it had to reconnect with them to retain its legitimacy.

It is easy to look at it as a surrender, considering that the government had once summarily rejected the Jan Lokpal bill but has now accepted almost everything in it, though in principle. But it might be better to take a more positive view,  and see it as a case of a government becoming wiser through trauma and ordeal.

The Hazare movement was sometimes painted as a threat to the supremacy of parliament. The resolution of the situation on Saturday showed the fallacy of that perception. Parliament witnessed an excellent debate on all the issues that came to the fore in the last few days. Its standing has not come down. The Lokpal bill will ultimately be passed by parliament only. It has not been coerced into accepting anything. The sense of the House resolution has recommended positive consideration of the civil society proposals to the standing committee which is studying the Lokpal legislation.

Parliament’s power and authority have not been compromised in any way. Actually parliament, and the country’s democratic system, has been strengthened by their ability to respond to people’s sentiments. A technical debate on parliament’s powers is not relevant as long as the spirit of democracy wins.

The cause of an independent and effective Lokpal will not be realised till one is actually set up. The standing committee has to study the sense of the House recommendations. It is not bound by the resolution. The committee’s recommendations need not be accepted by parliament also.  Therefore, there is much to go before the bill becomes law and comes into effect. Civil society has to be watchful against any dilution of the promises made by the government. On its part, the government should feel humble and learn its lessons from a very historic moment of democratic outreach.

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