NEW DELHI, Aug 26 (IANS): As uncertainty continued on whether Anna Hazare would end his 11-day fast for a strong Lokpal bill, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said Friday that the bill alone could not eradicate corruption and suggested that the institution of the ombudsman be given constitutional status like the Election Commission.
In his first comments on the nationwide debate on corruption, which has acquired urgency as Hazare's health deteriorated, Gandhi told the Lok Sabha that the hotly contested bill was only "one element" to eradicate corruption.
He also thanked the 74-year-old Hazare for helping people articulate their feelings of disillusionment.
"It is not a matter of how the present impasse will resolve, it is a much greater battle," he said.
"Witnessing the events of the last few days it would appear that the enactment of a single bill will usher in a corruption free society. I have serious doubts about this belief.
"An effective Lokpal law is only one element in the legal framework to combat corruption. The Lokpal institution alone cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive anti-corruption code," Gandhi said.
This led to an uproar, and Gandhi had to interrupt his speech for several minutes.
As opposition MPs led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tried to shout him down, treasury benches, led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, countered by saying Gandhi was speaking the "bitter truth".
In another intervention being seen as crucial, Gandhi, 41, suggested that the Lokpal be given constitutional status equivalent to the Election Commission.
"Why not elevate the debate, let us take it further and fortify the Lokpal bill by making it a constitutional body like the Election Commission of India?" he asked during zero hour.
"A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy," the Congress MP said.
"Today the proposed law is against corruption. Tomorrow the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the plurality of our society and democracy."
Stating that "corruption was all pervasive", he said it operated at all levels and could not "be wished away". Firm political will, he said, was needed to combat it.
"We speak of a statutory body (Lokpal) but our discussions cease at the point of accountability to the people and the risk that it may itself become corrupt," he said.
"Laws and institutions are not enough, accessible democracy is central to fighting corruption," he said, stressing that democratic processes should not be weakened in the pursuit for a Lokpal.
"This process is often lengthy and lumbering. But it is so in order to be inclusive and fair. It provides a representative and transparent platform where ideas are translated into laws.
"A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy..."
"I believe in government funding of political party, I believe in empowering the youth, in moving democracy to villages. I know a lot of my colleagues share these ideas regardless of the political lines. Let us commit ourselves to truth. We owe it to to the people of India," he said.
His sister, Priyanka Vadra, was in the gallery listening to him.