Govt bestirs to end stalemate

Govt bestirs to end stalemate

While details of the Congress core committee meeting, which took place at PM’s Race Course residence were not immediately available, it was learnt that the government may consider introducing in Parliament the Jan Lokpal bill of Hazare as an addition to the draft bill that is now before the parliamentary standing committee on law, a major concession in the backdrop of the aggressive stance adopted by Singh’s Cabinet colleagues in the run-up to the fast by the Gandhian.

The Hazare camp is also said to be considering relaxing its hardline: it was prepared to examine giving more time to the government if a new bill having features of both government’s Lokpal bill as well as Hazare’s Jan Lokpal bill was introduced. Deccan Herald has learnt that the anti-graft crusader wants the bill passed before Deepavali in the third week of October.

The Monday evening meeting was the first that the Congress party, which leads the UPA coalition, convened to address the issue, in the backdrop of the movement for a strong Lokpal snowballing all over the country, and thanks to 24x7 news channels, even into the smaller towns and rural areas.

The fast by Hazare at the Ramlila Maidan, has captured people’s imagination over the issue of corruption that has been the most contentious and frustrating problem faced by Independent India.

The Congress, taken aback by the groundswell of support for Anna Hazare and his campaign, has apparently decided that tarrying over beginning a formal dialogue with the Gandhian would cost it heavily, certainly in the ensuing elections in Uttar Pradesh where it has high hopes of trouncing Mayawati’s BSP, but more importantly in the elections to the Lok Sabha due in two years. Hence the urgency, said sources in the party. The party leadership has also been worried over many MPs of the party openly expressing support to Hazare’s campaign, the latest being Mumbai MP Priya Dutt.

Many younger MPs, more in tune with the people’s pulse and less tainted than long-time politicians, have decided to swim along with the current. More are expected to join the chorus of support to the anti-corruption movement, to protect their own political future.

Open for dialogue
Indicating the government’s newfound desire to break the deadlock, the PM said in Kolkata in the morning that his government was open for dialogue with the Hazare team, before rushing to Delhi to host the party’s core committee meeting.

That even the parliamentary panel studying the Bill was ready to expedite its report was voiced by its chairman and Congress MP Abhishek Singhvi. “We will give recommendations on Lokpal Bill well before three-month period given to us”, he said, indicating that a bill more acceptable to all sections may be brought in the winter session. “Give us a chance, we may spring surprises. We can change the (government’s) bill up to 80 per cent,” Singhvi said, adding: “ A solution is certainly possible. I fail to understand why a reasonable solution cannot be found to the issue. Our committee is open to all suggestions.”

Parliament, with the monsoon session due to end on September 8, normally meets again for winter session in the third week of November.

While there was no official negotiations between the two sides, Hazare told a TV channel that his team would talk only to a representative of the PMO, Rahul Gandhi and Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. However, Chavan is said to be reluctant to play this role. In the same breath, Hazare made it clear he would not talk to either P Chidambaram or Kapil Sibal, the two ministers who are in the forefront of the government’s ‘anti-Anna strategy’.

The Gandhian also made his displeasure clear over the non-government negotiators at work – spiritual guru Bhayyu Maharaj and Maharashtra bureaucrat  U C Sarangi. However, backroom channels were still at work as Sarangi met Sibal while AoL founder Ravi Shankar met BJP veteran L K Advani. The Bangalore-based yoga guru is said to have been green signal by the PMO to talk to different political parties.

Informed sources said Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh also wanted to help out the government and sent an MLC Kapil Patil to Hazare, but the latter refused to meet him.
Social activists including Swami Aginvesh, Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar hled a meeting on the evening to decide the further course of action. The day also saw follow-up on Hazare’s Sunday call to hold demonstrations in front of the residences of ministers and MPs. Activists laid siege to the homes of ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Kapil Sibal, MPs Murli Manohar Joshi, Jitendra Singh, Priya Dutt etc.

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