New Delhi: Anna Hazare's campaign loomed large over the Lok Sabha on Wednesday with the Opposition targeting the government over the issue of corruption, warning that the country was sitting on a volcano which could explode if the political class failed to get its act together.

Read more: BJP MPs threaten to resign over Lokpal

Singling out the Congress-led coalition for attack, the opposition wanted the government to realise that whatever was happening at Ramlila Maidan showed that people have become alert and angry over corruption.

Leading the Opposition charge, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi dubbed the coalition as the "government of the corrupt, by the corrupt and for the corrupt", alleging that the government has "born out of sin" of the cash-for-vote scam of 2008.

Referring to the series of scandals, Joshi told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was present during the special discussion on corruption, "I am not ready to agree that you did it (allowed corruption) deliberately. But it shows how much have you been misguided...Why do you hesitate in identifying the corrupt? When you try, your ministers try to cover up".

"So, you should first accept that mistakes have been committed and then take corrective measures ... so that the faith of the people on the parliamentary system is restored,” Joshi said.

Congress defends government

Agreeing that there was corruption in the country in various walks of life, Congress member K S Rao said it was because of "guts" and "courage" of the Prime Minister and his government that a Minister and an MP, both belonging to a coalition partner, have been sent to Tihar Jail even though there was a risk of losing power.

Questioning whether BJP had done anything like that during its rule, Rao attacked them for indulging in propaganda saying it was affecting the image of the country.

He had a dig at Joshi saying his remark that the government was "born out of corruption" meant that the graft during the NDA rule brought the Congress to power in 2004.

Bansal takes on Joshi

The debate saw a clash between Joshi and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal who accused the BJP leader of talking about an issue which was under his consideration as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

"This a clear breach of privilege. I too am ready to face privilege in the PAC and I will fight it out," an agitated Bansal said when Joshi raised issues relating to the 2G spectrum allocation scam which the PAC was probing.

Government vs Opposition

The spat between the two leaders also saw heated exchanges between the Congress and the Opposition members.
Joshi referred to the alleged KG Basin scam, saying gas prices were increased domestically to benefit RIL, even when there was no increase in the global prices.

He quoted reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the scam and alleged a "nexus" between private firms and officials of the departments of petroleum and hydrocarbon.

The BJP leader said the government "did not act at all" on issues relating to corruption despite media reports and letters written by several MPs and others to the government on the matter.

He demanded that all those guilty, including corporates, should be punished. "The government is helping the corporate at the cost of the poor," he said in the presence of the Prime Minister.

Maintaining that rupees thousands of crore had been stashed away in foreign banks, the BJP leader said if this amount was recovered, then all socially-important schemes would be implemented in the next four-five years.

Referring to a report of the UNDP, Joshi said "corruption is a stimulus for FDI in circumventing (taxation) laws" and warned that it had been empirically proved that higher FDI led to heightened corruption.

Asking the Prime Minister "not to make any cosmetic changes" but take holistic steps to tackle corruption, he said, "If you take such initiatives, people's faith in this institution (Parliament) will be restored."

Joshi brings smile on Singh’s face

The BJP leader referred to Singh's statement that there was "no magic wand" to fight graft and said "we know there are no magic wands. But there are economic and political wands which can be used for this purpose."

As the Prime Minister smiled at his remarks, Joshi said "the House is extremely fortunate to see you smile".

Anna effect

Referring to Hazare's agitation, Rao said the Prime Minister too is keen on tackling corruption and that was the reason for involving five members of the civil society in drafting of the Lokpal Bill although it is the prerogative of the Parliament.

Criticising Hazare's anti-corruption movement, the Congress member said demonstrations could be held but if one person demands that all his demands should be accepted, then what is the need for elections.

BJP defends Hazare

BJP Deputy Leader Gopinath Munde raised objections over the attack on Hazare, saying it was not fair to doubt civil society's integrity, particularly when they had been involved by the government in drafting the Lokpal Bill.

Rao said the government had taken a number of initiatives to fight corruption which include the recommendations of a Group of Ministers (GoM) and proposed legislations like Judicial Accountability Bill and Whistle Blowers Bill.

"If a Lokpal is created, what will be its accountability," he posed.

Congress defends PM

Talking about the Prime Minister's "courage" in fighting corruption, Rao noted that Singh had volunteered to appear before the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee although there is no provision for calling even a minister.

"You find faults with the government's functioning when there are mistakes, that is your duty. But don't find fault for wrong reasons," he told BJP members.

"There have been mistakes on this side, there have been mistakes on that side. I don't blame you," he told the Opposition.

Taking a dig at BJP, Rao asked how long it had taken for it to remove "a particular person" from government in Karnataka. This led to an uproar from Opposition benches.

He also said that it was because of the UPA government's guts that CBI was allowed to carry out raids in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh, "knowing well that it could affect stability of the government there".

(JPN/Agencies)