NEW DELHI: The government and Team Anna Tuesday night began discussions on the Lokpal issue amidst clear indications that the government might consider bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption ombudsman while differences persisted on other key issues during the inconclusive talks.
The negotiations capped a day of fast-moving developments which saw the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh appoint the Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee as the negotiator and immediately thereafter three members of Team Anna met him.
After three hours of talks, Team Anna said they made it clear to the government that the official Lokpal Bill should either be withdrawn or allowed to lapse and the Jan Lokpal Bill should be introduced and passed in the current session of the Parliament by extending it, if necessary.
They also rejected the Prime Minister’s offer to send the Jan Lokpal Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. “We have told them that it is not acceptable,” Mr Arvind Kejriwal, a top associate of Mr Hazare, told a gathering at the Ramlila Maidan where the veteran activist’s fast entered the second week.
The talks followed the Prime Minister’s letter to Mr Hazare in which he appealed to him to end the fast saying he and the government have “abiding interest” in his health. The Prime Minister’s initiative saw the Law Minister, Mr Salman Khurshid meeting Mr Kejriwal at a flat near East Delhi MP, Mr Sandeep Dikshit’s residence where it was conveyed that Mr Mukherjee would negotiate with Mr Hazare’s team.
Shortly after the discussions, the Prime Minister called a meeting of his senior colleagues where Mr Mukherjee and Mr Khurshid briefed them on the negotiations. Mr Kejriwal said that during the discussions with Mr Mukherjee it was conveyed that the basic principles of the Jan Lokpal Bill should be preserved and the Law Ministry should vet the draft in two-three days and get back to them.
“The Congress, UPA and the government should give a commitment that it will support the Bill and get it passed in this session itself, if required by extending it by two-three days,” Mr Kejriwal said.
Mr Prashant Bhushan, another Hazare associate, said the government appeared to have no objection to bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal, while on judges, the government promised they will bring a separate law and “show it to us.”
The civil society representatives claimed government has agreed that the anti-corruption wing of CBI will be under the Lokpal and the corrupt acts of members of Parliament will be covered by the ombudsman even if it was in pursuance of a vote cast or speech made in the Parliament which is now protected under Article 105.
Mr Kejriwal said there were differences on three points – Citizen’s Charter, inclusion of lower bureaucracy and setting up of state Lokayukta. He said the government would get back to them later.