Hazare-govt tensions can cause political turbulence again


NEW DELHI, Sep 4 (IANS): As tensions between the Anna Hazare-led civil society and the government escalate, several political observers fear the developments can delay the much-awaited Lokpal bill and cause fresh political turbulence.

`The current allegations and counter allegations have worsened the situation. A confrontationist scene may recur as the parliamentary standing committee is unlikely to accept many of Hazare`s demands,` Babu Bhaskar, a political analyst based in Thiruvananthapuram, told IANS on phone.

`There are several hawkish members in Team Anna who want a continued confrontation with the government,` felt Baalji Sharma, another analyst.

Hazare had Friday lashed out at a `cunning government` after the government acted against his key aide Arvind Kejriwal through an income tax notice and confirmed the CD exposes against two other aides – Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan – and resorted to alleged intelligence agency probes.

Adding fuel to the volatile situation, parliament has issued privilege motions against former police official Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Kejriwal for their critical remarks against MPs. Actor Om Puri too has been slapped a privilege notice for targetting MPs while speaking at the Ramlila ground during the recent 13-day fast by Hazare.

`The problems between the government and Hazare before the fast remain even now. What was achieved Aug 28 (when Hazare ended the fast) was not a solution, but a face-saving solution by both sides,` said Bhaskar.

Regarding the I-T notice to civil society leader Kejriwal, Bhaskar said: `That is the way political establishment responds to dissenters. The establishment uses official agencies against them (dissenters) if they are vulnerable to attacks.`

Mridula Mukherjee, professor in New Delhi`s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said there was a `slanging match going on between the government and the Hazare supporters now`.

`However, I feel the standing committee will reach an agreement on the Lokpal bill,` Mukherjee told IANS.

Regarding the tax notice to Kejriwal, Mukherjee said: `He should pay up his dues to the government. His personal liabilities should not the be mixed up with the movement.`

`After all, it is Kejriwal and colleagues who have been campaigning for accountability and transparency.`

While the government has not reacted against the 74-year-old social activist after he broke the fast, it has been `silently and steadily` probing the activities of his aides and initiating legal action wherever possible, observers point out.

On Aug 4, Hazare aide Arvind Kejriwal was issued a notice by the Income Tax department for payment of Rs.9 lakh dues during his employment period with the government till 2006.

Kejriwal Friday reacted that the notice, which came four years after he quit the service, was issued because of `political pressure`.

He alleged that officials of the Intelligence Bureau have been trying to frame him and his relatives.

Hazare himself upped the ante at a largely-attended meeting in his village Ralegan Siddhi Friday. `This government consists of a mob of `labaad` (cunning) people,` he said.

Targetting Home Minister P. Chidambaram for his arrest Aug 16, the social activist said: `He (Chidambaram) is not speaking the truth. He is the real `khodsal` (mischief maker) behind my arrest even before I could start my fast.`

Reacting to the privilege motion notice, Prashant Bhushan told IANS: `If the parliamentarians want to curb even general criticism against them, then it is a fundamental question of freedom of expression and the institution of parliament.`

Baalji Sharma said that some members of Team Anna were `politically ambitious and wanted to prolong the movement though new demands`.

Mukherjee felt that both sides should show restraint for the Lokpal bill to become a reality.

`I wish Kejriwal and colleagues were more gracious after the fast. Instead of issuing irritating statements everyday,` she added,



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