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India's Rahul Gandhi questions Hazare's hunger strike protest

By Harmeet Shah Singh
Rahul Gandhi, the general secretary of India's governing Congress party, arrives at Parliament in New Delhi on Friday.
Rahul Gandhi, the general secretary of India's governing Congress party, arrives at Parliament in New Delhi on Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • India's Rahul Gandhi says a watchdog would not solve the problem of graft
  • Gandhi thanks fasting activist Anna Hazare for raising the issue of corruption
  • But he warns that parliament should not be put under pressure
  • Hazare is into the 11th day of his hunger strike in New Delhi

New Delhi (CNN) -- India's Rahul Gandhi warned lawmakers Friday not to allow the nation's democracy to be undermined, in an apparent criticism of anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare's high-profile hunger strike.

His remarks came after Hazare's public fast entered its 11th day, as the 74-year-old activist presses for the creation of a powerful Lokpal, or citizen ombudsman, to tackle corruption.

"Individuals have brought our country great gains. They have galvanized people in the cause of freedom and development. However, we must not weaken the democratic process," Gandhi, who is tipped by Indian media as a future prime minister, told parliament in a speech.

He thanked Hazare for articulating what he called larger public disillusionment with a system plagued by massive corruption.

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But in his address to the national assembly, the 40-year-old general secretary of India's governing Congress party cautioned against pressuring elected institutions.

"This (democratic) 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," said Gandhi, whose Italian-born mother Sonia heads the Congress party.

"A process divorced from the machinery of an elected government, or this house, that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy," he told the lower chamber of elected lawmakers.

Three of Gandhi's ancestors -- Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv Gandhi -- have served as the country's prime minister in the past.

Echoing current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's views that any institution alone cannot eradicate deeply-entrenched corruption, Gandhi described the proposed Lokpal as just one tool in the fight against graft.

"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," Gandhi said.

"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. A set of effective laws is required," he added.

Activists and the Indian government have been in talks for days, but there has been a deadlock primarily over three outstanding points to which campaigners want parliament and the government to agree.

One of them relates to bringing Indian officials under the jurisdiction of the anti-corruption legislation.

 
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