|Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and LK Advani come out after the meeting with Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Dec. 21: The BJP has nuanced its stand on the Lokpal bill overnight after a high-decibel outburst on the government, betraying the difficulties in reconciling its political instincts with that of filial subservience to the RSS.
The Opposition party sounded more open to the Lokpal bills official version after finance minister Pranab Mukherjee met party leaders L.K. Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj this morning.
Sources said if the points the BJP had registered in its note of dissent to the parliamentary standing committees report on the bill were properly incorporated, it wouldnt obstruct its passage.
The governments managers are, however, keeping their fingers crossed, given the eleventh-hour somersaults in the past and often at the behest of Sangh parivar forces.
Sources said the BJPs initial reaction was prompted largely by pressure from the RSS to be seen in the public domain on Anna Hazares side of the Lokpal divide.
From the very beginning, the RSS had thrown its weight behind the activist because it sees in Hazares persona the ideal symbol to flag issues close to its heart, such as the anti-corruption crusades and a disciplined life in the national discourse. In the process, if it helps get even with the Congress for the Centres crackdown on the Sangh in terror cases, it will be counted as a bonus.
The BJP was trapped between two conflicting objectives: to stay on the right side of the RSS and, at the same time, not come across as a saboteur of democratic values and parliamentary norms.
As the Congresss alternative pole at the Centre, we will have to tread carefully, a source said, adding that the Hazare movement had begun to evoke radical and extra-constitutional associations.
The BJP faces another problem that the apolitical RSS does not have to tackle: the compulsions of governance. The problem is that most of our MPs and state leaders, including our chief ministers, are unhappy with the bill, a source conceded.
The BJPs dilemma was evident on several occasions, the most recent being when Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Jaitley shared public space with Hazare on December 11 at Delhis Jantar Mantar. His colleague Sushma, however, stayed away.
Sources said Sushma did not want to give the impression that she was willing to subjugate her parliamentary status to the diktat of a handful of civilians.
Several recent statements, including that against FDI in retail, by BJP leaders considered reform-friendly were seen as part of the public posturing meant to reflect the RSSs views.
The pulls and pressures of staying within the line but still testing the limits of autonomy were on display over the Lokpal bill also.
Last night, party spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Prakash Javdekar had alleged that the new bill amounted to a betrayal of the promises the UPA government had made to the people of India.
Javdekar said his response was based on TV sound bites on the proposed law because the reworked bill was not sent to members of Parliament for their perusal until late this evening. I went by media reports, he said.
The media reports in turn were sourced to leaks from the Hazare camp that, a BJP source claimed, was privy to the contents of the bill long before any MP was.
At the media briefing this afternoon, the partys normally outspoken Rajya Sabha deputy leader S.S. Ahluwalia said: We want a strong Lokpal bill at the earliest.
Asked if the governments bill was a letdown — as Javdekar had put it — Ahluwalia said: How can I or any of our leaders say anything on it until we have actually seen it?
Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma said the BJPs response on the floor of the House — if and when the bill is voted upon — would depend entirely on whether the government had incorporated the points we raised in our dissenting note. These points, she added, were non-negotiable.
Although Javdekar said he had reacted with the go-ahead of a senior leader, his statements created a flap among the bosses who, after their meeting with Mukherjee, asked Ahluwalia to try and undo the damage.
Sources said they had reasons to believe the government might have already included the BJPs demands or might incorporate them once the bill is introduced.
It is learnt that once the BJP assured Mukherjee it wouldnt scupper the constitutional amendment to give the proposed authority constitutional status, which the government plans to move simultaneously with the bill, the minister indicated that most of the partys expectations would be accommodated.
For instance, it has been suggested that the government agreed to delete the word minorities from the provision granting reservation to Dalits, tribals and backward classes in the Lokpal body.
The government also reportedly assured the BJP leaders that the bill would enshrine enough safeguards to insulate Indias federal structure. The new bill will be renamed as the Lokpal and the Lokayukta bill.
Sources said the BJPs political objective was to keep the heat burning on the Centre even if the bill became law so that the campaign might hurt the Congresss prospects in the coming state elections.