Kejriwal: Priority is checking corruption rather than bringing PM or higher judiciary under Lokpal ambit

Team Anna Hazare on Thursday asserted that it would go ahead with its indefinite fast on August 16 to press its demand for a strong Lokpal Bill but indicated that it was open to further talks with the government.

“All the issues raised by us are important and we are not giving up any of the issues but for us the priority is dealing with the corruption faced by the common man rather than the inclusion of the Prime Minister or higher judiciary under the ambit of the Bill,” said social activist Arvind Kejriwal.

He, however, did not agree that this indicated a softening of position on their part with regard to the demand for covering the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary under the Bill. “We are not going back on any demand. We are open to any dialogue but there is no invitation from the government yet. The Standing Committee invited us and we placed our views before it,” he said.

Mr. Kejriwal sought to clarify that social activist Swami Agnivesh had been “misunderstood” for his remarks in a television interview on Wednesday. Mr. Agnivesh had said that they were “flexible” on their demand for the inclusion of the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary but the sticking point was bringing in the lower judiciary.

“He had been misunderstood. He did not say that we are giving up any of the issues that have been raised,” said Mr. Kejriwal after a meeting of the core membership of ‘India Against Corruption' at which Swami Agnivesh was present.

Even while the venue for the agitation was not cleared by the Central government till late evening, activist Anna Hazare threatened that they would stop drinking water if the government tried to arrest him before or during the fast or attempted to force-feed him.

Team Anna said its proposed fast at a venue near Feroz Shah Kotla grounds would be peaceful and non-violent.

Appealing to people to maintain decorum at the venue, Mr. Kejriwal said: “We have got reports that in some place, some troublemakers might enter the protest and try to spread violence. We appeal to the people to be aware of such elements.”

The civil society members of the erstwhile Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee are demanding a strong and effective Bill that provides for setting up Lokayuktas in States, addresses public grievances, protects whistleblowers, covers the lower bureaucracy, the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary.

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