PM says Hazare’s path is wrong, protests continue (Afternoon Lead)

August 17th, 2011 - 4:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday accused Anna Hazare of trying to trip parliament even as thousands rallied across the country in support of the jailed Gandhian who is seeking an effective law to tackle corruption.

Speaking in parliament where the opposition has joined forces to pin down the government, Manmohan Singh said that Hazare might have high ideals but his path was wrong.

The “path he has chosen to impose his draft of a bill upon parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our parliamentary democracy”, the prime minister said.

Manmohan Singh accused Hazare, 74, of trying to impose on parliament an anti-corruption bill of his choice.

Manmohan Singh made a statement on the arrest and subsequent release of Hazare Tuesday on a day of high drama that ignited widespread protests all over the country.

Hazare was ordered free Tuesday evening but he refused to leave the jail until he was allowed to stage his hunger strike exactly where he wanted to — the J.P. Park in the heart of Delhi.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Tihar Jail in support of Hazare, who began his fast Tuesday morning soon after he was detained before starting his threatened hunger strike.

Many more people staged protests in cities across India.

The Gandhian has decided to stay in prison till the location of his fast was finalised, his confidant Prashant Bhushan said Wednesday.

“He will continue his fast in Tihar unless he gets unconditional permission to sit at J.P. Park or any public place. If the government permits him, he will come out of Tihar and sit there,” Bhushan said.

The opposition has hit out at the government for putting curbs on Hazare, a known anti-corruption crusader.

In his nearly 1,800-word statement, Manmohan Singh said every citizen had the right to hold peaceful protest but there was a way to do it.

“Our government does not seek any confrontation. But when some sections of society deliberately challenge the authority of the government and the prerogative of parliament, it is the bounden duty of the government to maintain peace and tranquility,” he told the Lok Sabha, as opposition MPs intermittently shouted “Shame! Shame!”

Manmohan Singh, who addressed both houses after the opposition demanded a statement from him, stressed that the issue before the nation was not whether a Lokpal bill, which is already in the Lok Sabha, was necessary or desirable.

“The question is, who drafts the law and who makes the law?

“I am not aware of any constitutional philosophy or principle that allows anyone to question the sole prerogative of parliament to make a law.”

He said those who believe their voice alone represents the will of 1.2 billion Indians “should reflect deeply on that position”. “They must allow the elected representatives of the people in parliament to do the job that they were elected for.”

The statement triggered a heated debate in parliament with the opposition slamming the government for denying Hazare the right to protest.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj said while she stood for parliamentary democracy, she would not side with a government curbing a citizen’s right to protest.

“I reject your policy of curbing citizen rights,” said Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the lower house.

Her party colleague Arun Jaitley demanded that Hazare and his colleagues be released from prison.

“The condition for holding a protest can be that there should be no violence, not how many people will protest and for how long they will protest,” he said in the Rajya Sabha.

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