Appealing to Anna Hazare to end his nine-day old fast, an all-party meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Wednesday sought to assure the anti-corruption crusader that “due consideration” would be given to his Jan Lokpal Bill “so that the Final Draft of the Lokpal Bill provides for a strong and effective Lokpal which is supported by a broad national consensus”.
However, the carefully worded resolution avoided any reference to timelines or procedures – two metrics that Team Anna has considered crucial in its drive to enact the Jan Lokpal draft within the current session of Parliament.
Dr. Singh’s initiative to take political parties on board came amid growing concerns over the 74-year-old social activist’s health condition and the growing support for his protest.
In the meeting, the majority of opposition leaders called for the withdrawal of the official Lokpal bill introduced in the Lok Sabha, a demand the Congress and its allies rejected.
As a compromise, the all-party resolution referred to the 'Final Draft' of the bill, a phrase which emerged after Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee went into a huddle with BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. Though the phrase leaves little scope for ambiguity that the Bill in its present form is inadequate, there is no clarity yet as to how exactly the Government would put in place a bill which would satisfy all quarters within and outside the Parliament.
The UPA can draw solace from three broad strands that emerged in the course of the all-party deliberations. These are that no party backed the Team Anna bill in its present form, the collective emphasis all parties placed on the supremacy of Parliament and the legislative process and the shared concern over coercive methods.
The Prime Minister set the tone in his opening remarks by pointing out that the “recent developments have raised issues, related to the functioning of our Parliamentary democracy, that concern all of us” and said that against this backdrop he deemed it necessary to seek the guidance of party leaders on the way forward.
Summarising the four conditions put forth by the Team Anna prevail upon the social activist to call off his protest, Dr. Singh handed over the floor to Mr. Mukherjee, the Government’s new interlocutor with the campaign managers of Hazare.
Former Union Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Laloo Prasad Yadav asked the Government not to yield to sections of the civil society and asked why those seeking accountability of the Government are bent on keeping out the NGO sector from the ambit of the Lokpal institution.
Making a case for withdrawal of the bill Gurudas Das Gupta urged the Government to draft a new bill after consultations with all stakeholders and broadest consensus. He further told the meeting if required a special session of Parliament could be considered for an early passage of the bill.