Extending an olive branch to anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, whose fast-unto-death entered the third day on Thursday, the Union government began negotiations with his representatives and even agreed to some of their demands.
While the government said it would set up an informal joint committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill, Mr. Hazare is demanding that it be officially notified to ensure legal validity. Also, there is no consensus on who will head the committee.
Union Minister Kapil Sibal, on being deputed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met Mr. Hazare's representatives — RTI campaigner Arvind Kejriwal and social activist Swami Agnivesh — twice during the day.
After the first round of talks, both parties stuck to their positions but later ironed out some of the differences.
While the government agreed to form a joint draft committee for the Bill but without notifying it due to “technical reasons,” the two negotiators wanted it officially notified.
Similarly, while the government wanted Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to lead the committee, the activists wanted Mr. Hazare to head it.
However, the two negotiators later said the committee should be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
“We had two rounds of constructive discussions…we need more time. We will meet again tomorrow [Friday]…we can evolve a procedure with which we can move ahead,” Mr. Sibal told journalists after the meetings.
The government was ready to form a joint committee immediately, comprising five members each from the government and civil society, and also introduce the Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament, he said.
Later, Mr. Kejriwal told The Hindu: “The government has agreed to speed up the entire process and leave out Ministers from the committee who are busy with elections.”
Asked why they were adamant on official notification of the committee, he said: “It has to have some legal sanctity…It was needed to ensure that the government does not make a fool of us.”