At his Ralegan Sidhi village in Maharashtra, Gandhian activist Anna Hazare and his supporters celebrated the passing of the Bill that they had campaigned for so doggedly for years. The 76-year-old Lokpal crusader ended his nine-day fast accepting a glass of coconut water from two little schoolchildren.
He was on a hunger strike to demand that Parliament pass the Bill in the winter session of Parliament.
“Other than the Samajwadi Party, I salute all MPs who helped pass the Bill,” Anna said. The SP opposed the Bill.
The lower house had allotted four hours to debate the Bill, which provides for a powerful national ombudsman to investigate wrongdoing in government, but wrapped it up in less than an hour and voted on it amid slogan-shouting by Andhra Pradesh MPs opposed to the creation of Telangana.
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, appeared to target the ruling Congress as she criticized attempts to take credit for pushing the Lokpal Bill.
“People are lining up to take credit, but there is an old man who keeps fasting for the bill and appeals to our collective conscience. And then the people of this country deserve credit,” she said.
“It is our responsibility to complete our unfinished fight against corruption,” said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, whose party has credited him with leading the Lokpal push ahead of the national election due by May.
“The Lokpal Bill is part of the UPA’s comprehensive anti-graft framework,” Gandhi said, calling for an extension of the current session to pass six more Bills to check corruption. The House has, however, been adjourned for the session.
The ruling Congress’ extreme zeal to push the Lokpal Bill is being seen as a result of the massive losses it suffered in assembly elections. In Delhi, which it had ruled for 15 years, the Congress was felled by Arvind Kejriwal’s one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party, which made a stunning debut based on its promise to fight corruption. AAP however did not support the current Lokpal Bill passed today terming it as ‘Jokepal’ Bill.