Hazare rules out change in nominees in Lokpal panel

New Delhi: Gandhian Anna Hazare on Sunday brushed aside Baba Ramdev`s criticism on inclusion of father-son duo Shanti and Prashant Bhushan in Lokpal Bill drafting committee and virtually ruled out any change in the nominees, saying the focus is on having an effective anti-graft measure.

In a bid to assuage Baba Ramdev, he said he will talk to the yoga guru as at this juncture, it is important to take the country together to fight corruption.

"I will request him (Ramdev) not to think like that. We will all take the country ahead together. There is love for the country inside him. I will tell him not to think of a person or individual and only keep the country in mind," the 73-year-old activist said here when asked why former IPS officer Kiran Bedi was not included as a committee member.

Hazare said, "I will request him, I will touch his feet telling him that we should do this for the country. To form the draft, it is important to have understanding of the law and experts are needed for it.The committee is just for two months".

Key activist Arvind Kejriwal, who has been nominated as a member of the committee, and Bedi said the issue was not about individuals but that of a strong legislation being drafted by it.

Kejriwal, a former IRS officer-turned activist, said last night he had talked to Ramdev and the misunderstanding has been cleared.

Bedi, who has been urging the media to give as much coverage to Hazare`s campaign as they did during the Cricket World Cup, said she did not want to be part of the panel at all and wanted the experts to do their job.

"This is an A-plus team. Only those people can be part of this committee who know the government`s functioning and can help in making a law that will look into all aspects of fighting large-scale corruption", Bedi said.

Hazare said that even he had initially refused to be part of the drafting panel as it was important to have an effective bill. "Who should be part of it and who should stay out are not important matters. This will be of importance at a later stage", he explained.

Noted lawyer Shanti Bhushan said that his son Prashant had himself raised the issue of the two being part of the same committee but maintained it was Hazare who felt that they as experts needed to be part of it.

Ramdev, who had joined the agitation, had objected to the inclusion of the Bhushans in the committee, alleging it showed nepotism. "Why is there nepotism in the committee? Why both father and son are accommodated in the committee?" Ramdev had asked.

Hazare disagreed with Baba Ramdev, saying, "You can level any allegation against me. I am a person who follows Gandhian principles. Nothing wrong in having two members of the same family in the panel. We need experience. We need expertise".

The veteran activist broke 98-hour-long fast yesterday morning after the government issued a notification for drafting an effective Lokpal Bill.

Replying to questions, Hazare said the civil society activists were planning their next strategy to ensure a tough anti-graft bill and that much more needed to be done to fight corruption in the country.

"We are planning our next strategy. Now that a small battle on the Lokpal Bill has been won, we will have to work more for laws to tackle corruption in various levels of our society", Hazare, whose fast-unto-death agitation received nationwide support, said.

Government had yesterday agreed to constitute a 10-member Joint Committee, including civil society members to draft a stronger Lokpal Bill.

The veteran activist admitted that he could not fathom that the movement led by him would generate such a massive nationwide support.

"I had no idea this agitation would turn out to be as big as it did… and the nationwide support we got. I wanted to do it in Maharashtra but Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal insisted that I hold the fast-unto-death in New Delhi", said Hazare.

He said he was happy with the government`s decision over the Joint Committee while noting the Lokpal Bill should be introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

Asked if a special session of Parliament should be convened for quick passage of the anti-corruption bill, Hazare said there was no need for it as that would amount to additional expenditure for the government.

Kejriwal said he saw no reason behind the discussion on who all from the civil society should be part of the joint committee.

"I don`t see any reason behind this discussion. Those who were part of the team that prepared the first draft of the Jan Lok Pal Bill — Justice Santosh Hegde, Shanti and Prashant Bhushan and I — are part of this committee", Kejriwal said.

He said those who understood the real importance of the development (formation of joint committee) were not insisting to be part of it as they know that it was important to have experts on board.

Kejriwal said the anti-graft agitation triggered by Hazare was wound up from Jantar Mantar but on registering oneself with a certain helpline number, all details and updates of the joint committee`s working will be provided from time to time.