Pointing out that the Congress-led government should have passed the Lokpal Bill two years ago, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh Wednesday said the party would not be in the situation it is in had it done that.
“If we had brought the Lokpal Bill two years back, we wouldn’t have been facing the problems we are,” Ramesh said. The much-touted Lokpal Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament in December last year after a final push by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Social activist Anna Hazare along with others including Arvind Kejriwal, who is now Chief Minister of Delhi, had been agitating for the Bill and against corruption since 2011. The Congress lost four of the five state elections last month where corruption was a key electoral issue. It now faces an uphill task in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls with a strong anti-incumbency mood against it.
The minister, who also heads the party’s campaign committee, praised Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for its smart campaigning and for raising the right issues.
“AAP has caused a political earthquake in just two years. They have changed the language, direction and priority of politics,” Ramesh said.
This is the second time in a week the Union minister has praised the new party. Earlier this week, he had said AAP’s emergence was a warning to all political parties.
“They (AAP) may be poor in governance and administration but are brilliant in campaigning,” Ramesh said Wednesday. “They have been raising legitimate issues. The issues of their agitation — simplicity and austerity in politics — have the right values. People want to see simplicity and austerity. Established political parties have to change their way of doing business… There must be zero tolerance for corruption,” he added.
The senior Congress leader also said all mainstream political parties should “learn from AAP” and that it would be wrong to say the party is just a passing phenomenon. “We certainly cannot write them off…. They may not get too many seats in the Lok Sabha polls but could get a fair share of votes,” he said.
BJP leaders Prabhat Jha, Shahnawaz Hussain and Krishnapal Gujar also addressed a number of rallies.