With social activist Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast finding resonance with popular outrage over corruption, the UPA government on Friday appeared open to discussing his team’s major demand to place the Prime Minister within the ambit of the proposed lokpal’s powers.
The government however seems to be in no hurry to engage in a dialogue with Team Anna and modify its stand on some of the contentious demands being made by the civil society team.
Hazare announced that he would fight to the “last breath” until the government gets his team’s Jan Lokpal Bill passed in this session of Parliament, which ends on September 8.
Government sources made it clear that the UPA constituents would also have to be taken on board on the PM’s inclusion before a decision is taken. They pointed out that agriculture minister Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party was the first to oppose the PM’s inclusion at the cabinet meeting that cleared the government draft of the Lokpal Bill.
The Congress core group met on Friday evening to discuss the fallout of the protest at Ramlila Maidan that, according to the home ministry, inspired nearly 570 demonstrations and protests by Anna supporters across the country on Friday.
At Ramlila Maidan, Arvind Kejriwal of Team Anna agreed that they would need to talk to the government at some stage. But the Indian Revenue Service officer who quit his job to become a social activist also made it clear that the protests would not end before Parliament passes the legislation.
The Congress and the government have decided not to get directly involved in the negotiations. “I do not visualise a situation where the political leadership is going to come face-to-face with Team Anna till everything is final,” said a senior government functionary.
The negotiations will be conducted initially through intermediaries, and later through government officials, he said.
An economist and a political activist, both from Maharashtra, have been roped in by government managers to lead the preliminary back-channel talks with the social activist and his team, sources in the Congress and government confirmed.The government isn't averse to engaging Team Anna but there is reluctance to make "political contact" anytime soon, a source said after the Congress core group meeting. "There was a strong view that the government should gauge the public mood before taking any decisive step," a government source said. Ideally, the core group wants the request for dialogue to come from Team Anna.