New Delhi: The government has introduced the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha. Team Anna is, however, not happy with the current draft of the Bill. They say the Bill in its current form is "toothless" and have rejected it. In an exclusive interview to NDTV's Barkha Dutt, one of the key members of Team Anna, Arvind Kejriwal, talks about the jail-bharo agitation Mr Hazare has announced, if the government does not pass a strong Lokpal Bill, and how the movement is not anti-government.
Here's the transcript of the interview:
NDTV: Good afternoon. The Lokpal Bill has been tabled in Parliament, but has the battle only just begun? Anna Hazare's team has rubbished the Bill, in fact called it worse than the bill drafted by Government earlier this year in August. Now many Parliamentarians are saying "Leave it to Parliament". Many of the main opposition parties have also strongly criticized the Bill, the BJP being chief amongst them, saying that they plan to introduce a number of amendments. Anna Hazare, however, is adamant to go on his agitation as scheduled from next week, following it up with a Jail Bharo Andolan. How will this endgame of the Lokpal battle play out? Joining us now is somebody who many believe is the chief architect of the Anna Hazare campaign, the main brain behind the campaign. A very prominent leader of the Anna Hazare campaign, Arvind Kejriwal. Arvind, let me start by asking you, this very harsh statement that the Bill is even worse than the one presented by the Government in August. Why do you say that? Because just looking at some of the changes, for example, there is an inclusion of the Prime Minister, which the Standing Committee had not included. There is an independent mechanism for the appointment of the CBI Director, and this is a long battle that you all have been fighting. The sanction for prosecution of public servants has been lifted. These are what some people would say are improvements. Why do you think the Bill is worse?
Arvind Kejriwal: Firstly, the sanction for prosecution was already not there in the...
NDTV: In the Standing Committee Bill.
Arvind Kejriwal: No, no. In the August bill.
NDTV: And even in the earlier one. Yes.
Arvind Kejriwal: There are two things. One is jurisdiction, the other is powers. And many times in these debates we mix up these two things. What jurisdiction should Lokpal have? There was a debate on that. Group C and D, PM etc. That was a debate of jurisdiction. Whose corruption should Lokpal be able to investigate? Now, in the August bill there was a clause, which I would say was the soul of this, that Lokpal will have its own investigative machinery to investigate those corruption charges. Now they have taken away the power to investigate. So, Lokpal has no powers now. Lokpal will have to contract out all the investigations, all the complaints, to some government agency. It says any government agency. So, practically all the investigations which the Lokpal wants to be done, Lokpal can't do. You are creating an anti-corruption agency that does not have any investigation powers.
NDTV: What about the preliminary inquiry?
Arvind Kejriwal: It doesn't mean anything.
NDTV: What about the fact that the CBI has to get its closure reports vetted by the Lokpal on cases referred to it by the Lokpal?
Arvind Kejriwal: It doesn't mean anything. If you ask, I was speaking to Prashant in great detail. He said it doesn't mean anything.
Arvind Kejriwal: Because the CBI, or any other agency, it is not just the CBI that they are talking about. They are saying that the CBI, or any other government agency, Lokpal can refer its investigation. That agency will give its report and Lokpal will just see that evidence, whether that evidence is sufficient to take it to the court. So that is the only discretion, little discretion, that Lokpal has. That if the evidence is not sufficient they will close the case there. If the evidence is sufficient they take it to the court and file a prosecution or a charge sheet in the court of law. Otherwise, no one has the power to interfere in the investigations under CrPc. Forget about Lokpal. Even a superior officer in the police or the investigating officer's boss would not have the power to. So, all that was required was an independent investigative agency directly under Lokpal. We were saying it should be CBI.
NDTV: What if the Lokpal were given its own investigative wing?
Arvind Kejriwal: We had said that.
NDTV: That is another parallel formula that has been proposed.
Arvind Kejriwal: No. In fact, to share with you, in August the Bill said Lokpal will have its own investigative machine. We were happy with that. The only confusion was that would there be two agencies now? CBI also and Lokpal also? So when we had informal discussions with the Government, the Government said that we would take away all the anti-corruption work of CBI and give it to Lokpal. It was fair. Now, when we are taking a look at the Bill we are quite shocked to see that Lokpal's investigating powers and investigating agency has been taken away.
NDTV: So, you're saying that it would be an acceptable formulation if the Lokpal were to have its own investigative department and cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act would be given to the Lokpal and the CBI would carry on its parallel track independently.
Arvind Kejriwal: Independently on the non-anti-corruption ...
NDTV: On the non anti-corruption cases?
Arvind Kejriwal: We have no problem.
NDTV: You are correct in saying that that is a formulation that many expected would make its way in, but some Parliamentarians have raised concerns, even for example the CPI among them. D Raja has said, "Who should the CBI report to?" This is a genuine question. It's a genuine question.
Arvind Kejriwal: That is a fair question.
NDTV: Some people have suggested another formula. They are saying that the CBI could report to Parliament. They could report, for example, a Parliamentary panel that also has opposition representation or a semi-constitutional authority. Would that be an acceptable formula?
Arvind Kejriwal: Let me just first explain, what is the Lokpal that we have conceived, what we have in mind. We are not creating a new body. We were saying that the CBI was supposed to do the anti-corruption work of the Central Government, but CBI has two problems. One is that the CBI is not independent of the Government, so make CBI completely independent. Second problem was that the CBI is completely understaffed, so give the autonomy to CBI to take care of its own. Now, when you make CBI independent, you have to make it accountable to someone. Now they are saying that make it accountable to the Parliament. Fair enough. But what we were saying is that rather than the CBI being headed by just one Director, who can become a dictator tomorrow, let there be an eleven member body of Lokpal, and that eleven member body the CBI Director could report to, and they can in turn report to the Parliament. Fair enough. We want this body to be directly accountable to the Parliament. We want this body to be accountable to the elected representatives. We have no problem with that, but this is the architecture that was there in my mind, that make CBI independent. Put these eleven, if you take out CBI then there is nothing left in Lokpal.
NDTV: Now the BJP is going to definitely move an amendment on this issue of administrative control of the CBI to be taken away from the Government. There is another formula that has been put on the table and that is that could the administrative area, which relates to transfer and appointment of officials, be kept with the Government but only be done with the concurrence of the Lokpal. This is a formula one is hearing about.
Arvind Kejriwal: That is a confusion. I mean, why not clearly have CBI's administrative and financial control with the Lokpal. How can you have dispersed ...
NDTV: That is the ideal scenario. Suppose it doesn't happen. Is this a formula that Anna's team can work with?
Arvind Kejriwal: But then it wouldn't work. A confused system will not work. Tomorrow you will have cases where you will have infinite, you see, today you are creating a CBI who will report to CVC also, they will report to DoPT also, they will report to Government also, and they will report to Lokpal also.
NDTV: They have multiple bosses instead of one?
Arvind Kejriwal: Somebody was saying Draupadi, CBI ko Draupadi bana diya aap logon ne. So, you can't have such a confused system because that's a sure recipe for disaster in the future. And when this system will not work, you would say "Anna Hazare ne aisa system banaya tha". So, we want a neat and clean system for anti-corruption. Let there be one body for anti-corruption system, where people can go and report and they investigate and take the matter to the court.
NDTV: At your press conference you made a statement that confused a lot of people. You said that "90% of politicians are outside the purview of the Lokpal." Now, if this refers to the fact that the Lokpal doesn't cover the behaviour and conduct and speech of the Members of Parliament, inside Parliament, there is a near unanimity in the political class that this is a privilege they want to keep. This is not a Government versus Opposition issue. Were you referring to that?
Arvind Kejriwal: Yes. You see, there are almost about 800 Members of Parliament and this bill covers only Ministers, which is roughly 70 or 80. So 10% of the politicians are covered. Likewise, 5% of the government officers are covered. But it covers all temples, all gurudwaras, all colleges, all schools, all religious institutions, all medical institutions, all hospitals, all dispensaries. And it says that "the people working in these institutions will be deemed to be public servants" So all the priests, all the fathers, archbishops, all the teachers working in schools, all the doctors have been declared as Government servants. It's going to be huge, kind of, jurisdiction. So what is the intention of this bill?
NDTV: But the counter argument that the Government, and other politicians, are also making is that the conduct of MPs outside Parliament will be covered. I do understand there are grey areas. I had asked Abhishek Singhvi what happens to, for example, the cash for votes controversy, because that is something that took place inside, partially at least, inside. He said "No. But if it's a scam, it was hatched outside, so it was covered by court" So my question to you is, do you not think the judicial process is enough to cover conduct of Members of Parliament that relates to their behaviour outside Parliament?
Arvind Kejriwal: No. There is a Supreme Court judgement which says that if there is bribery in the voting or speech of a person in Parliament, then the bribe giver can be prosecuted, the bribe taker cannot be prosecuted. So, this anomaly needs to be removed now. Otherwise you are giving a licence because of this Jharkhand Mukti Morcha judgement, that any Member of Parliament can take a bribe to speak or vote in Parliament and he cannot be prosecuted. This is the law of the land today. You need to remove this anomaly. I concede that you need to have a system where honourable Members of Parliament can freely speak and freely vote. Because tomorrow suppose someone speaks something and tens of people would come and say that "he has taken money from". We need to avoid that kind of a situation. So, we need to have a system wherein the sanction, for registering an FIR and sanction for prosecution, could be such that that does that enough screening to find out whether there is prima facie evidence. If there is prima facie evidence. It was a sting operation in the cash for votes scam. There were sting operations in that other in which the questions were asked...
NDTV: Cash for questions?
Arvind Kejriwal: Cash for questions. Now, if you have such strong evidence.
NDTV: But the MPs were punished. That was Abhishek Singhvi's argument. That the MPs were punished.
Arvind Kejriwal: Punished in the sense that they were expelled. But it is bribery. It is a criminal offence. FIR has to be registered, investigated, and matter taken to the court. That will not happen. So what we are saying is that have an effective screening mechanism to see whether there is prima facie evidence. It could be in-house, but then let an independent agency investigate that, not Delhi Police.
NDTV: But are you aware that none of the Parliamentarians, perhaps, would yield on this particular aspect?
Arvind Kejriwal: I agree with that, but these are the facts that we are presenting before the people.
NDTV: Let me ask you the larger question. Is there anything in this bill, now the Bill is in Parliament, we are going to see amendments. This may not be the final bill. Is there anything in this that you think does provide the foundation for a good, strong Lokpal, provided some amendments come in, which they will I am sure. Are you hopeful or are you disheartened?
Arvind Kejriwal: No, I think we are quite disheartened. We are very disheartened that we thought that after Anna's fast in August one would have a very strong Lokpal now. What we realize is that after Anna's fast we have a much weaker Lokpal now, with practically negligible powers than what we had in August. So, this bill had several deficiencies. The most key deficiencies being the selection process, removal process, and the Government decides whom to select.
NDTV: Dominating the process. Yes.
Arvind Kejriwal: The Government decided when to suspend. Whenever the Government wants they can suspend the Lokpal. So it is a completely, it is a, this thing in the hands of the ...
NDTV: Now you heard a number of Parliamentarians. What did emerge, even those who were not happy with the Government draft, they are saying again and again "Anna Hazare now needs to leave this process to Parliament." You know, Jagdish Bhagwati made a statement today, which was in the papers, saying civil society can flag an issue, it can't flog an issue. Do you believe that Anna Hazare is in a little bit, and your team is in a little bit of danger, of being extremist about this, because you fast and your agitation, those three days, are coinciding with the three days when the Parliament is debating this Bill. Why not wait to see what the final shape would be?
Arvind Kejriwal: First is, I completely disagree with this thing that the people are too agitated against corruption. And the conduct of the government in the last few months has not been above board. Now obviously it is left to the Parliament. We can't do anything about it. It is the Parliament who has to decide.
NDTV: Why not allow that breathing space instead of de-facto ...
Arvind Kejriwal: They have the breathing space ...
NDTV: But Anna Hazare is setting de-facto deadlines.
Arvind Kejriwal: They have the breathing space, but it is perfectly legitimate in a democracy to engage. So rather than say that "Let a bill be passed and then protest against it", why can't you sit outside and also keep on telling what your objections are? It is a constant engagement. So, if something is happening in the Parliament and outside the people raise voices in favour of it or against it, what is wrong in it? It gives the Members of Parliament also a sense of what the people feel. There is nothing wrong in it. On the contrary, I would say that it is a very good process that the people outside are also able to discuss what is going on in the Parliament. This is exactly what happened on 27 August, when Parliament was sitting. And at that time at Ramlila Maidan people were watching the Parliament. The whole country was watching the Parliament. So that would provide a platform for the people to also be able to comment on what is going on in the Parliament.
NDTV: What did you think of Lalu Prasad Yadav's speech? It got a lot of thunderous applause from sections of Parliament. Later, on this programme, he was interacting with Kiran Bedi, who is a member of your team, and interestingly he made a commitment that the CBI should not be with the Government. He said his opinion was that the CBI should not be with Lokpal but it should not be with the Government either. Beyond the humour, what did you make of his speech?
Arvind Kejriwal: I think the debate could have been better.
NDTV: Well this was not the main debate. The main debate starts on Tuesday.
Arvind Kejriwal: Yes, but I think it could have been better.
NDTV: Why do you feel that?
Arvind Kejriwal: I mean, the whole country watched the proceedings. And I ...
NDTV: What disappointed you? What part of it?
Arvind Kejriwal: I don't think I would like to comment on that.
NDTV: Let's look at one of the things that people are worried could derail the Bill, the minority quota issue. Now, it's one thing to say that the Lokpal must be representative in nature to reflect India's pluralism, but there are many concerns that this is an aspect. It was introduced, taken out, re-introduced through the corrigendum. That this is something that could legally derail the Bill. Are you concerned?
Arvind Kejriwal: Two things are there. One is, we need a very, very strong and robust selection process. Once you have a robust selection process let there be reservations. We have absolutely no problem. If you have a robust selection process you can get an extremely good Muslim. There are so many Muslims who are very good people. You can get an extremely good Christian. You can get an extremely good person from a minority community. You can get an extremely good person from the Dalit community, if you have a good selection process. So we have absolutely no problems if there were reservation. But what is happening is that politics is being played in the name of reservation. They plan to completely scuttle the whole process in the name of reservation. You have reservation. We have absolutely no problem. But have a robust selection process. And if you had a bad selection process, then reservation or no reservation, you will get bad people.
NDTV: But Pranab Mukherjee says in Parliament that now the Courts will decide whether this is legally tenable or not. A number of other people have suggested that one way of doing it was not to formalize a minority quota, but like, for example, when you form the Cabinet, you say there should be people of all religions, communities and castes.
Arvind Kejriwal: As far as reservation is concerned, this thing is that we completely leave it on the Parliament to decide whether they want to have reservation. We are not against it at all.
NDTV: But are you concerned about the controversy will derail the Bill?
Arvind Kejriwal: That is what, the politics of this would derail the Bill. But secondly, this present bill is so bad, that in this form it should not be passed.
NDTV: There are a number of people who have supported Anna Hazare's campaign. Many, many people across the country. But they are worried about Parliamentary democracy going through a churn, India going through a churn. Your case in Mumbai, for example, where we are awaiting a verdict on whether you will get a venue where you want to agitate. The Court has made some observations saying 'when a bill is in Parliament'. It is an observation, it is not a ruling. We don't know what the ruling will be. "Time and space should be given for Parliament, in a sense, to decide on that bill." How do you respond to that Arvind?
Arvind Kejriwal: The matter is sub judice. It would not be right for me to comment on this.
NDTV: The larger philosophical question. Has there been a shift in your approach as well? Because, you people started with a very anti-politician sentiment. But when you had a public debate in Delhi you invited politicians to participate. Has there been an introspection, and a realization that you also need to engage more actively with the political class?
Arvind Kejriwal: We were engaging right from the beginning.
NDTV: Informally, but not formally so much.
Arvind Kejriwal: Formally also. In March ...
NDTV: You met all the parties actually.
Arvind Kejriwal: We met all the parties and we had a meeting where the media was also present. We had a meeting with many politicians coming together at India Islamic Centre. So it is wrong, I think it was a wrong perception and wrong projection of the movement, that this movement is shunning politicians. It was a wrong projection. Right from the beginning we have been engaging with the political parties and the politicians.
NDTV: And just as we end, the other perception also is that you are anti-Congress. That's what the Congress says. They say there is now an open alliance between the BJP and Team Anna.
Arvind Kejriwal: That is wrong. Let the Congress pass a very good Lokpal Bill and we would be very happy to congratulate in whatever manner they ask us to do.
NDTV: Why is Anna Hazare talking about starting his Jail Bharo from outside Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi's house? He did also make a statement saying that he thought Rahul Gandhi was behind the watering down of this Bill. Why has this become such a personalized battle between Anna Hazare and the top leadership of the Congress Party?
Arvind Kejriwal: As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, if you place some facts on the table, it would raise some questions in your mind. The Prime Minister of the country says, "Put me in Lokpal. Put me in Lokpal. Put me in Lokpal."
NDTV: And his Cabinet says "No."
Arvind Kejriwal: And his Cabinet says "No". They say "The Party doesn't want it". But Rahul Gandhi says that "Let there be constitutional status", and there is constitutional status.
NDTV: But nothing wrong with the constitutional status per se. "It's a good thing", many would say.
Arvind Kejriwal: So, it raises a question that who is in the decision making? Who has the power to decide? It raises those questions.
Arvind Kejriwal: Right? Second is, now Annaji has said that there will be a Jail Bharo Andolan. The method of Jail Bharo would be that the Members or Parliament of those political parties who oppose this Bill in Parliament, their MPs outside, outside their houses let there be a dharna, a peaceful dharna, shanti-purv dharna, in front of their houses. And in the process, if the government arrests you, offer yourself for arrest. That is the method of Jail Bharo. And being a senior leader he has said that I would go and lead them.
NDTV: But earlier his communication was actually with the Congress President. In fact he would turn to Sonia Gandhi, saying "Please help."
Arvind Kejriwal: That is what. He has done everything. That shows his honesty. The honesty of the purpose, the honesty of objectives.
NDTV: How do you see her statement, when she said, "we are ready for the fight?"
Arvind Kejriwal: If she is ready for fighting against corruption, we'll join hands.
NDTV: Ready to fight for the Lokpal. You don't think this is a worthy fight?
Arvind Kejriwal: Obviously. We want a strong Lokpal. But when she says "The Bill presented by the Government is very strong", I don't know who is advising her. It cannot be. The whole media is saying it is bad. Everyone in the country is saying it is bad. So I think she ought to ask the right kind of people and she should be convinced that this is a bad Bill. And if she is interested in having the right kind of bill we would be more than happy to engage.
NDTV: Give us a sense, as we end, what is the focus of the agitation going to be next week? Is it going to culminate in an anti-Congress campaign in the five assembly states as well?
Arvind Kejriwal: It is not anti-Congress, it is not anti-Parliament, it is not anti-Government. It is basically a mobilization of the people, awakening of the people, and making them aware of the kind of debate that will take place in the Parliament.
NDTV: Arvind, has there been any learning for Team Anna as well? Because there are people who have been concerned that there is a certain absolutism that Anna Hazare's team demands and represents. But that absolutism, you know, you've seen some of your own members embroiled in controversies. Whether it's Prashant Bhushan or Kiran Bedi or even yourself. People have turned around and said absolutism doesn't work in politics. Of course we must demand integrity. Of course we must demand cleanliness. Of course we must demand a clean system. But absolutism can lead to ideological intolerance. How do you respond to this criticism?
Arvind Kejriwal: Absolutism in the sense of, that we are ...
NDTV: Ideological absolutism. Moral absolutism, in a way. That is the phrase that is sometimes used.
Arvind Kejriwal: So what did we say? That pass this Bill or no other bill. Is that what you are referring to or something else?
NDTV: No. That it has to be this way or no other way.
Arvind Kejriwal: Which is a wrong accusation, because no one is appreciating the process that we have followed. The first Bill that we drafted was on 1st December 2010. After that this Bill, through several public consultations, several seminars, several meetings, has gone through 14 versions. And if you see the latest version and compare it to the first one, it has completely undergone change. And we are still seeking suggestions from the people. There were 3000 suggestions that we got from the website itself. We've incorporated many of these suggestions. So it will be completely wrong to say that we are saying "Either this Bill or no other bill". It is completely wrong to say that "my way or the highway". I think it is the Government that is adopting "my way or the highway". It is not we who are adopting "my way or the highway."
NDTV: Are they reaching out to you all at all?
Arvind Kejriwal: I think what is extremely important is to discuss issues. What we are asking for, is it right or is it wrong? And we are willing to discuss those issues with anyone and at any public. We are inviting people. They are not coming. We are willing to go anywhere and we are willing to discuss.
NDTV: Is the Government reaching out to you on this point?
Arvind Kejriwal: No, they are not.
NDTV: Not even through the back channels?
Arvind Kejriwal: No.
NDTV: And if they were willing, you are willing to discuss the clause by clause aspects of this bill.
Arvind Kejriwal: We would be more than happy. Everywhere, anywhere, any time.
NDTV: Because one of the things that has been said is, and members of the Standing Panel said that it wasn't just Anna Hazare's team, they met 600 people for their inputs on this Bill. So are you willing to take all of those people along with you in this debate?
Arvind Kejriwal: Of course. Why don't you just publish what the people said, and what they accepted.
NDTV: So, next week, in conclusion, do you believe that your agitation will lead India to where it should be, to have the Lokpal it deserves? Because there is still space for amendments and change.
Arvind Kejriwal: Right. So let's hope so. Let's hope for the best.
NDTV: Well, Arvind Kejriwal, it's another week of agitation coming up. Thank you so much for talking to us.
Arvind Kejriwal: Thank you.
NDTV: Arvind Kejriwal there, key member of Anna Hazare's team saying they are disheartened and many important amendments are needed to this Bill for it to be the Lokpal that India deserves.