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India parliament debates anti-corruption bill

Bill faces stiff opposition, not least because its success or failure could affect important upcoming state elections
Lokpal debate in parliamentEnlarge
Indians sign up in support of veteran Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare and his opposition to the proposed Lokpal bill in its current form in Mumbai on December 22, 2011. The Indian government submitted two key bills to parliament December 22, including anti-corruption legislation that risks triggering a repeat of mass protests that rocked the country in August. The proposed law would create a powerful new ombudsman, or "Lokpal", tasked with probing and prosecuting senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Indian parliament on Tuesday began a three-day debate of the government's proposed Lokpal bill -- which would create a powerful ombudsman's office to check corruption, reports the BBC.

Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare also began a three-day fast to protest the government's bill, which he has criticized as too weak because it does not give the ombudsman control over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or include a "citizen's charter" for the timely investigation of public grievances against the government.

The first day's debate resulted in a "stormy session," according to the Economic Times, which noted that the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called for the bill's withdrawal.  Political opposition to the bill will likely remain strong, regardless of its merits or flaws, because rival parties believe that the anti-corruption stir hurts the Congress party more than any other.  Meanwhile, important state elections are on the way in Uttar Pradesh -- often the kingmaker in Indian politics -- as early as February.

Team Hazare, as the activists' supporters have come to be called here, has said explicitly that they will campaign against the Congress in the upcoming state elections in Uttar Pradesh and several other states.  Already, the Election Commission is considering how to monitor the group's participation, since it is not fielding any candidates but promises to be a significant player nonetheless, according to India Today.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/india-parliament-debates-anti-corruption-bill