All-party meet likely on Lokpal

Last Updated 18 June 2011, 08:44 IST

This became clear today after a meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi had with top party leaders favouring such parleys against the backdrop of widening differences between the government and the civil society representatives led by Anna Hazare on the issue.

Grappling with the issue and other sensitive matters like Telangana, the Congress Core Group headed by Gandhi met for today, the second meeting coming just after its two-hour long deliberations last night. Today's meeting also discussed Telangana problem.

The Hazare camp is pitching for inclusion of Prime Minister as also higher judiciary in the proposed Lokpal bill during meetings of the Joint Committee to draft the measure which will now be meeting on June 20 and 21.

Government is prima facie opposed to the inclusion of Prime Minister within the ambit of Lokpal but was open to the idea of covering him once he demits office.

HRD Minister Sibal today said,"within the government, we feel prima facie, the Prime Minister should not be covered (under the Lokpal). But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution."

Senior minister like Chidambaram and several top party leaders have been maintaining that there was divergence of views on whether the Prime Minister should be included or not. They say that since Congress is leading the coalition, it has to take everyone together.

A third suggestion was that the Prime Minister could be brought in with specially carved exceptions or he could be brought within the ambit after he demits office.
Congress leaders have been maintaining in private that bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal is fraught with serious consequences and a decision in this regard needed to be taken keeping in mind a long-term view.

The refrain of Congress and the government is that Parliament is supreme and Anna Hazare and his team should not adopt the attitude of "my way or the highway".
There is a view in the government that if Hazare team is insistent on certain provisions, they have to get Parliament's support for it as the government has done what it felt right in its wisdom.

That the government and Congress wanted to involve other parties for deciding the issue was also evident when Sibal a few days back said political parties could have different views on the matter.

Today's meeting that lasted for more than two hours also discussed the Telangana issue as the statehood gains momentum ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament. Sources said the issue was discussed at length but no decision was taken. 

(Published 18 June 2011, 08:00 IST)

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