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Hazare has Sonia's vote

Following calls for her intervention, Sonia Gandhi on Thursday appealed to Anna Hazare to end his fast, demanding a joint committee to draft a strong Lokpal Bill. Nagendar Sharma reports. Day 3 | What fits the bill | What is the Lokpal Bill

delhi Updated: Apr 08, 2011 10:17 IST
Nagendar Sharma

Following calls for her intervention, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday appealed to Anna Hazare to end his fast, demanding a joint committee to draft a strong Lokpal Bill.

As support for the anti-corruption crusader grew across the country, Gandhi stepped in and issued a statement, saying she was pained by Hazare's indefinite fast.

"The issues he has raised are of grave public concern. There can be no two views on the urgent necessity of combating graft and corruption in public life."

Virtually endorsing Hazare's demand for a stronger Bill to check corruption in high places, Gandhi said, "I believe that the laws in these matters must be effective and must deliver the desired results."

Hazare thanked Gandhi for her concern, but did not say anything on ending his fast.

"Please tell the UPA government to pass the Lokpal Bill at the earliest," he said.

Gandhi's intervention was preceded by hectic parleys between the government and Hazare's men during the day to break the deadlock.

Telecom minister Kapil Sibal, authorised by the PM, held three rounds of talks with Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal, from Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon. He has another meeting lined up for Friday.

The Centre has already agreed to form a joint committee to draft a new Bill, besides accepting the demand that the committee would have an equal number of representatives from the government and civil society.

There was, however, no consensus on who would head it and whether an official notification should be issued on the formation of the committee.

Kejriwal insisted the fast would not end till the government issued a notification.

"They cannot fool us. Informal offers are useless and we won't accept them."

Though his colleagues wanted Hazare to head the committee, he said, "In my life I have never accepted such a position and nor will I do so now."

Sibal said the two sides have not arrived at a consensus after two rounds of talks on two issues - issuing an official notification to form the committee and making Hazare the chairman of the committee.

The government, which has almost conceded to the activist's demands, will still have to grapple with their next wishlist, which includes overriding powers for the proposed Lokpal.

Former chief justice of India VN Khare advised both sides to be reasonable.

"That the Lokpal is the need of the hour nobody can dispute, but it would have to be within the framework of the Constitution," he said.