Pranab holds parleys; Team Anna seeks written assurance
In a major breakthrough to end the impasse on the Lokpal Bill, the government seems willing to concede Team Anna's demands for including the Prime Minister within the ambit of the Lokpal, widening the selection process, allowing the Lokpal to cover Members of Parliament subject to Article 105 of the Constitution, and on making the Lokpal, rather than the CBI, the sole agency to investigate corruption. On including the judiciary, Team Anna seems ready to settle for the speedy tabling of a separate law.
After three hours of discussions here that were described as “fruitful” and “constructive,” the government representatives urged Team Anna to persuade the anti-corruption crusader to break his fast that entered the eighth day on Tuesday.
According to Team Anna, the areas of differences are — how to deal with the lower bureaucracy, the need for parallel Lokayuktas in States and preparing a citizen's charter in each government department for time-bound delivery of services.
Members of Anna's team told the government that unless it gave a written commitment on the demand to “table, discuss and pass in this session of Parliament the Jan Lokpal Bill or a Bill that incorporates the principles of the Jan Lokpal Bill,” it would be difficult to convince Mr. Hazare to give up his fast. “If required, the Parliament session should be extended,” they said.
They sought a written assurance from the government on the points of agreement. The discussions will continue on Wednesday, while the Prime Minister will be apprised of the progress made at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs on Tuesday night.
Opposing the move to send the Jan Lokpal Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Team Anna demanded that the Lokpal Bill be withdrawn, and the Jan Lokpal Bill or an amended Bill incorporating the principles of the Jan Lokpal Bill be introduced, discussed and passed this session itself.
“The outcome of the meeting will be discussed at the all-party meeting on Wednesday,” said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was authorised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to initiate the talks. Besides him, Law Minister Salman Khursheed and East Delhi MP Sandeep Dixit participated in the talks. Team Anna was represented by Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi.
The meeting was set after Dr. Singh made an appeal to Mr. Hazare to give up his fast, even as the social activist ignored the advice of doctors for an intravenous drip and warned the government against trying to forcibly evict him from the protest site, where thousands of his people braved sudden rain to express solidarity with him.
On a day of fast developments, the government broke the ice with Team Anna with an informal meeting between Mr. Khursheed and Mr. Kejriwal at Mr. Dixit's house.