A breakthrough in the deadlock over Lokpal continued to elude Team Anna and government despite hard negotiations with differences persisting over seven issues, including bringing the Prime Minister under its ambit.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday night candidly admitted that the government was in a "bind" from which it has to come out with "practical and pragmatic" solutions.
Singh's comments came after Union law minister Salman Khurshid and three key members of Anna Hazare's team negotiated over Janlokpal Bill and an all-party meeting where both the Left parties and BJP urged the government to withdraw its Lokpal bill now now before a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Even as the Prime Minister made these remarks at an Iftar party hosted by him at his residence, the two sides were getting ready for another round of negotiations later tonight at which the government team would be led by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and civil society represented by Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi.
The all-party meeting made an appeal to Hazare, whose fast at Ramlila Grounds entered the ninth day today, to call it off. But Hazare maintained that he would not do so.
Sources present at the all-party meeting said that out of 40 points presented by the civil society in its Janlokpal bill, there was complete agreement on 26, broad agreement on seven and persisting differences on the remaining seven.
The seven points on which the differences remain include a single law providing for Lokayuktas in states, bringing Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs in Parliament in the ambit of Lokpal, coverage of all civil servants, definition of Lokpal and selection process of Lokpal.
At the meeting, political parties were unanimous that the supremacy of Parliament and Constitution should be upheld and there should be no short circuiting of procedures.
Both Sitaram Yechury (CPM) and D Raja (CPI) said that Constitution and Parliamentary procedures cannot be tinkered with as Parliament is supreme. They said it was for the government to make an appropriate law.
A resolution passed at the all-party meeting said "this meeting of all parties in Parliament requests Shri Anna Hazare to end his fast."
"The meeting was also of the view that due consideration should be given to the Janlokpal Bill so that the Final Draft of the Lokpal Bill provides for a strong and effective Lokpal which is supported by a broad national consensus."
At the meeting, the Prime Minister conveyed the demands of the civil society that government should withdraw the Lokpal Bill in Parliament and in its place Janlokpal Bill with some changes within four days, discuss that and pass it in the Monsoon Session without referring to the Standing Committee.
The civil society also said that if a written committment can be given by the government on its demand, Hazare can be persuaded to end his fast.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee briefed the meeting on the negotiations he had held with Team Anna and the persisting differences on some of the major points.
Parties, including the BJP, Left, AGP and RLD, demanded withdrawal of the government bill saying it was weak but made it clear Parliament was supreme and there can be no short-circuiting of procedures like proper and due examination of any legislation in the Standing Committee.
Government announced in the Rajya Sabha that the Jan Lokpal Bill has been referred by it to the Standing Committee whose chairman Abhishek Singhvi promised that the committee would do "most open, comprehensive and objective analysis" of the Jan Lokpal bill keeping the interests of the nation in mind.
The government and its allies, on their part, expressed their reluctance to concede the demand for withdrawal of the official bill.
"Most of the parties from the ruling alliance and some other parties were not in favour of withdrawing the government bill... It is sad that unanimity could not be reached on this issue. Instead of doing patchwork in the old bill it would have been better to bring a new bill. I am not happy," leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said.
Asked about the inclusion of the office of Prime Minister, Singh said that he was in favour of such a provision but his "senior and more experienced" colleagues felt that it would not be desirable.
However, major opposition parties insisted that the Prime Minister should be brought within the ambit of the Lokpal.
Reacting to discussion in the all party meeting, Arvind Kejriwal said "if Janlokpal Bill is introduced in Parliament tomorrow, Hazare will end his fast. Government will be directly responsible if something happens to Hazare."