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Are you scared? Team Hazare asks PM; Congress hits back

Monday June 13, 2011 08:01:42 PM, IANS

New Delhi: A day after Baba Ramdev ended his nine-day fast against corruption, Team Hazare Monday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh why he was "scared" of the proposed Lokpal bill, prompting the Congress to hit back at the civil rights activists.

Taking their war of words to a new level, Gandhian Anna Hazare and his associates sent an open letter to Manmohan Singh demanding to know why his government wanted to keep his office outside the Lokpal's ambit.

"You are the most honest prime minister the country has had. It is ironical your own government should seek (to keep) the prime minister out of the purview of Lokpal's investigation," they wrote in the letter.

Hazare confidant Arvind Kejriwal separately urged the government to hold a referendum to determine whether people preferred an official Lokpal bill or the more radical one suggested by civil rights activists.

Congress hits back

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari attacked the activists crusading against corruption, saying the country faced threats from the "tyranny of (the) unelected".

"They always keep threatening (to go) on fast even as the government is holding discussions with them. Is it democratic?" asked Tewari.

"If you have faith in your strength, through discussions, convince the government...

"If this country and democracy has any threat, it is from the unelected tyrants. If democracy faces its greatest peril, it is from the tyranny of the unelected.

"Such people need to understand one basic thing. In the democratic system, the veto is in the hands of people, not any person," Tewari added.

Kejriwal has emerged as the most vocal member of Team Hazare, which also includes lawyers Shanti and Prashant Bhushan as well as former judge Santosh Hegde.

All five are members of a 10-member panel, which includes five cabinet ministers, set up to frame the proposed Lokpal bill to fight corruption in high places.

Deteriorating relations

Relations between the government and Team Hazare has deteriorated in recent days. While Hazare wants the prime minister to be covered by the Lokpal bill, the government has come out strongly against the demand.

The letter sent to the prime minister sought to know why.

"Till now the prime minister could be investigated by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation). Why should an honest prime minister like you be scared of being investigated by an independent Lokpal?" it asked.

"In the past you yourself offered to be brought under the purview of the Lokpal. Then why are your ministers opposing your inclusion in the Lokpal's ambit? Is there a disconnect? Taking the prime minister out of any probe would be a retrograde step."

Kejriwal's comments came a day after Finance Minister and Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee accused civil society of putting undue pressure on the government with their protest campaigns.

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) also attacked the government on the issue of corruption.

While the BJP asked the prime minister to clarify whether or not he wished to be covered by the Lokpal bill, the RSS asked the Congress to stop hurling "baseless charges" against civil society activists.

The government is also upset over Hazare's criticism of the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev's demonstration in New Delhi and the persistent demand to have public debate over the Lokpal -- as opposed to the close-door discussions that have taken place so far.




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