PM bows to Anna movement

PM bows to Anna movement

The government’s climbdown came during talks between government’s Pranab Mukherjee who was deputed by the prime minister for negotiations, and three members of Team Anna — Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi — late in the evening.
As for including the judiciary under the Lokpal, Mukherjee told the Hazare associates that the Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill would deal with the question.

The negotiations followed a letter written earlier in the day by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Anna Hazare, offering to refer the Jan Lokpal bill to Parliament, and pleading with him to give up his fast.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to the anti-graft crusader that his government would request the Lok Sabha speaker to “formally refer the Jan Lokpal Bill also to the Standing Committee of Parliament for their holistic consideration…”.

At the Mukherjee-Hazare team meeting, there was no convergence on three contentious points — the inclusion of lower level bureaucracy in the bill, institution of the Lokpal at the Centre and Lok Ayuktas in states and the Team Anna demand that government publish “Citizens charters” in government offices defining time limits for clearing files.
Mukherjee said he would have to consult the PM and his cabinet colleagues on the points of divergence, and promised to meet the Team Anna members at 10 am on Wednesday for more discussions.

Close to midnight, the prime minister convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) at his residence, where Mukherjee briefed senior ministers on his parleys with the civil society representatives. The meeting, attended by A K Antony, Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, S M Krishna and Sharad Pawar continued well after midnight.
The dilution in the hardline stand of the government came after a meeting that Singh had with Congress scion Rahul Gandhi in the afternoon.

The hurry with which the government moved also indicated its nervousness over doctors expressing their concern over the health of the septuagenarian on the eighth day of his fast.

Physicians attending on Hazare advised that he be hospitalised, but the anti-corruption crusader is said to have turned down the suggestion.

After sending his letter to Hazare, the prime minister followed up by deputing finance minister and government’s chief negotiator Pranab Mukherjee for the first round of talks with Hazare’s representatives Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi in the evening. Mukherjee had only law minister Salman Khursheed besides Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit for assistance.

A significant feature of Tuesday’s developments was the sidelining of Union ministers P Chidambram and Kapil Sibal, who were government’s negotiators with civil society representatives over the last several weeks, and who chiefly fashioned the government’s response to the demands made by Team Anna.


Incensed at their hawkish stance and the manner in which they handled the events relating to the fast, the Hazare camp is said to have asked the prime minister to keep the two ministers away from the negotiations.

The breakthrough in the stalemate between the government and Team Anna came after a series of meetings that Singh had with his ministerial colleagues and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.

After Kejriwal said in the morning that the issue needed a political solution, the prime minister had a meeting with minister Salman Khursheed.

 Singh met senior ministers Mukherjee, A K Antony, Chidambaram and Rahul Gandhi whom he met again in the evening.

The PM also held a lengthy meeting with Abhishek Singhvi, chairman of the Parliamentary standing committee that is studying the Lokpal Bill.  The prime minister has invited representatives of all political parties for a meeting Wednesday.

In his letter, the PM wrote to Hazare: “If you have any anxieties about time and speed, the Government can formally request the Standing Committee to try, subject to its discretion and the necessity to reflect deeply and spend adequate time on an important Bill, and fast track their deliberations to the extent reasonably feasible”.

Once a Bill goes to the committee, normally it takes about three months for it to complete work.

However, Singhvi had stated on Monday that he would complete the task in two months. This means that the Lokpal bill drafted by the committee may come before Parliament for discussion and passage in winter session which normally starts in November third week.

Options
The prime minister told Hazare that “all options” were open before the Standing Committee.

“Undoubtedly, they would be entitled to consider, in detail and clause by clause, subject to their discretion, not only the Bill introduced by us but the Jan Lokpal Bill and other versions like those prepared by (civil society activist and National Advisory Council member) Aruna Roy”.

Singh said the committee was fully entitled to make any changes to the Bill introduced by the government.

“In view of the matter, the formal non-introduction of the Jan Lokpal Bill version by the government is irrelevant and would largely boil down to a semantic debate”.

Falling health
Singh expressed concern over Hazare’s falling health. Appealing him to end the fast, he said Hazare’s health was a matter of “abiding concern” for the government. “Over the last few days, I have watched with increasing concern the state of your health.

 Despite the differences between the Government and your team, I do not think that anybody is or should be in any doubt about the deep and abiding concern which I and our Government share about your health, arising from your continuing fast”.

Interesting, the prime minister told Hazare that he would “refer the Jan Lokpal Bill to Speaker more particularly and more importantly, in view of my deep and abiding concern for your health” than the concern repeatedly expressed by his team.

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