An aggressive finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday slammed civil society representatives, saying "unelected people" were wielding "extra-constitutional powers" and "challenging" the role of democratically-elected representatives - comments that looked part of a government strategy to recoup and regain control.
Mukherjee - who heads the lokpal bill drafting panel that includes civil society members - rejected two key demands: video transmission of the panel's sittings and, more importantly, inclusion of the PM and judges under the ambit of the bill.
"Whether it would get passed within the timeframe given by Hazare (August 15) is not in the hands of the government. Parliament is supreme," he said.
Prashant Bhushan, a leading civil society representative, said Mukherjee's views only confirmed Centre's intention to scuttle the lokpal bill.
However, he said that talks will not stall over the rejection of the video recording demand.
But he cautioned that there will no dilution of other demands, like including the PM and judiciary under the lokpal.
The finance minister indicated that the government would launch a publicity drive and weigh in on public opinion by highlighting its action on corruption - such as tax information exchange agreements with 10 countries - and the pitfalls of surrendering governance to non-state actors.
Mukherjee said the government would move the Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament but it could provide no guarantee that it would be passed.