Govt-Team Anna hold talks, sticking points remain
Govt and Team Anna today held discussions to end the standoff over Lokpal after PM Manmohan Singh nominated Pranab Mukherjee as the negotiator and appealed to Hazare to end his 8-day fast. We'll work out a solution: Pranabdelhi Updated: Aug 24, 2011 00:34 IST
Breaking the ice, Government and Team Anna Hazare on Tuesday held discussions to end the standoff over Lokpal after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nominated Pranab Mukherjee as the negotiator and appealed to the Gandhian to end his eight-day fast.
On a day of fast-paced developments, UPA's troubleshooter Mukherjee met Hazare's team members - Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi - for over three hours and said the dialogue will continue and that he was hopeful that "we will be able to work out a solution".
However, the sticking point remained over the contentious issue of referring the Jan Lokpal Bill to the Standing Committee of Parliament, an offer made by Singh in a letter to Hazare, and rejected by Hazare's team during the discussions.
On the 8th day of his fast, a frail-looking Hazare, whose health deteriorated considerably, disregarded calls for giving up the protest and also doctors advice for permitting them to administer drip.
After the meeting with Mukherjee, Bedi said Hazare will not end his fast till the government gives a written commitment on meeting their demands.
Parallely, the government convened an all-party meeting tomorrow where deliberations with Hazare's team would be conveyed.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister, concerned over the deteriorating health of Hazare, directly reached out to him by writing a letter with an appeal for ending the fast and promise that his version of Lokpal Bill would be considered by Parliament.
Singh told Hazare that the government would request Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar to refer the Team Hazare bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee which would then be formally asked to "fast track their deliberations to the extent reasonably feasible".
Singh said his government's objective with regard to tackling corruption was "identical" to that of Hazare and was ready to talk to anybody to enact a "constitutionally-valid and the best possible Lokpal" while keeping in mind the Parliamentary supremacy and Constitutional obligations.
Emerging from the meeting with Hazare team, Mukherjee said, "we have started discussions with representatives of the civil society" and further discussion will take place at the all-party meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
"Dialogue will continue. I am hopeful we will be able to work out a solution," the finance minister said.
At the same time, he appealed to Hazare to call off his fast, saying his "life is too precious to be put at any risk whatsoever."
The Team Hazare said the discussions were "quite fruitful and constructive" held in a "good atmosphere" and said "some progress" was made.
Soon afterwards, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of senior ministers which was apprised by Mukherjee and Khurshid about their discussions with the Hazare team.
Kejriwal told Hazare's supporters at Ramlila Ground that differences persisted on three "sticky issues" -- bringing the lower bureacracy under Lokpal, preparing a citizens charter by all departments and establishment of Lokayuktas in all states.
They also rejected the Prime Minister's contention that the Jan Lokpal Bill could be referred to the Standing Committee.
Kejriwal said they made it clear to the government that Jan Lokpal Bill should be passed, without referring it to the Standing Committee, during the current session of Parliament, even if it means extending it by a few days.
The Hazare team also demanded that the official Lokpal Bill should be withdrawn or allowed to lapse.
Bhushan claimed that government did not have any objection of some other key issues like bringing the Prime Minister under the purview of Lokpal.
With regard to bringing higher judiciary under the Lokpal, Kejriwal said the government had promised to bring a separate law. The team Hazare wanted that bill be shown to them and passed along with the Lokpal Bill.
"The government does not have objection to bringing the Prime Minister under the Lokpal. However, on bringing MPs under Lokpal, the government cited Article 105 providing protection to them," Bhushan said.
Bedi said the government was also ready to transfer the anti-corruption wing of CBI to Lokpal.