Team Anna, govt fail to break ground

Team Anna, govt fail to break ground

While the meeting between associates of Gandhian Anna Hazare and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee-led government side failing to break ground on the vexatious issues, an all-party meeting held at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 7, Race Course Road residence urged the civil rights activist, whose fast is hours away from entering the tenth day, to end the hunger strike.

Representatives of the parties made it clear that some provisions of the Jan Lokpal bill were unacceptable as they violated the supremacy of Parliament.

But the Centre also accepted that it was caught in a cleft stick with Singh admitting that the government was in a “bind” from which it had to come out and that “pratical and pragmatic” solutions to the Lokpal bill issue had to be found.

After the meeting between Hazare’s associates and the government side ended around 10 pm, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said: “We are trying to understand each other’s perspectives...We will talk tomorrow as well...the priority is Anna’s health.”

But Hazare’s associate and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said: “We are back to square one.” Minutes after the talks ended in a stalemate, Hazare told his supporters close to midnight at the Ramlila grounds to hold “jail bharo” demonstrations and protests against MPs. He pleaded with them not to resort to violence.

With the Gandhian declaring that his hunger strike was nowhere near ending soon, the Centre prepared plans to shift him to a hospital if the need arose. But in the course of the day, the countours of an acceptable compromise appeared to have emerged as the two sides tried to address the key sticking points. Earlier, in the Rajya Sabha, the government announced that Hazare’s Jan Lokpal bill had been forwarded to the parliamentary standing committee for consideration. “We have forwarded the Jan Lokpal bill to the standing committee for its consideration. It is for the committee to decide,” Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said in the Rajya Sabha.

At an Iftar party hosted at his residence after the all-party meeting, the prime minister hoped that Hazare would heed the appeal by the political parties and added that Parliament would not accept a deadline to pass any legislation.

“It is their (Team Anna’s) suggestion. It does not mean we accept everything,” Singh said while reacting to Hazare’s August 30 deadline for passage of the Jan Lokpal bill.
“I have always been in favour of inclusion of the prime minister in Lokpal. But my experienced colleagues say it will not be desirable,” he said. But he indicated that the government did not favour withdrawal of the Lokpal bill which has already been introduced in Parliament.


While at the all-party meeting the leaders of major Opposition parties, including the BJP and the Left parties, demanded that the government withdraw its Lokpal bill from Parliament and present a fresh one, the government held two rounds of talks with leaders of the Hazare team. Leaders like Lalu Prasad and Ramvilas Paswan supported the government’s Lokpal Bill.

In the two rounds of discussions that Mukherjee, the chief negotiator for the government, and Khurshid had with Hazare’s associates, the differences further narrowed down between the government and the civil society. The Hazare team had held one round of talks with the government on Tuesday.

Three members of Team Anna -- Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan -- held talks with Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who was accompanied by East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit.

Informed sources said there were now only three points of differences between the two sides and they included the government employees at all levels coming under the ambit of Lokpal,  a single Lokpal Act covering state Lokayuktas also and ‘citizens’ charter’ where in every government office it would be clearly mentioned the number of days required to clear a particular type of service.

On Tuesday, the government agreed for the other contentious points: including the prime minister and the anti-corruption wing of the CBI in Lokpal. As regards the higher judiciary, the government said the Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill would address the relevant issue. The Hazare team agreed to this point. There was, however, no word on the inclusion of conduct of MPs inside Parliament in the bill.

 

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