Their shadow boxing apart, both government representatives and civil society members on Thursday expressed their willingness to cooperate with each other in drafting a strong and effective Lokpal Bill.

During the day, there were three press conferences, where the two sides targeted each other but both of them had one thing to say — they would go to great lengths to arrive at consensus and formulate a draft.

First, Law Minister Veerappa Moily denied sending two drafts to the Union Cabinet and clarified that there would be a single draft, and on provisions where differences prevailed the differing opinions would be registered. He also said there was agreement on 34 of the 40 points raised by the civil society members and there was a difference of opinion only on six contentious issues.

Though Anna Hazare and his team members warned that they would continue from where they had stopped and resume their fast from August 16 if the government failed to come up with a strong Lokpal Bill, the social activist hailed Mr. Moily's attitude and said they would continue to talk till the last moment.

That was followed by another press conference by Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khursheed, who denied that discussions had been bitter or had broken down. They hoped to draft the Bill in cooperation with the five members of civil society on the Joint Drafting Committee.

To a question, Mr. Chidambaram said it might not be possible to finish the job by June 21, as declared after the seventh round of talks on Wednesday, but it would certainly be completed by June 30. He said the government representatives were open to extending talks even beyond June 21, if needed.

On the contentious issue of bringing the Prime Minister under the Lokpal, Mr. Chidambaram said there were several views — some favoured his inclusion, others were against it, while some others wanted his inclusion with some exceptions. The fourth opinion was to include him after he demitted office — these need to be considered.

Similarly, Mr. Hazare and his team said they would be more than happy if the government thought a consensus was possible and said they would not mind continuing deliberations even beyond June 21.

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