With the standoff between the central government and Team Anna still showing no signs of easing off, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is under pressure to defuse the nation-wide protests gaining crescendo.
A far cry from the administrative approach adopted by the Manmohan Singh government on Tuesday to tackle Team Anna, the Centre on Wednesday allowed the public to voice dissent vociferously on the streets to boost its democratic credentials and bury any comparison with the Emergency days as insinuated by the Opposition.
The government tried to create political space by making the agitation into Anna versus Parliament issue rather than — as opposition projected — Anna versus the government.
The government stance towards Anna was discussed and deliberated at the Congress Core Committee, which met on Wednesday morning, and the situation review meeting — between the PM, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and home minister P Chidambaram — later in the afternoon in Parliament.
The senior leaders are of the belief that the public will see through Team Anna’s attempts to force the lokpal bill on Parliament and do not want any compromise on Parliament’s right to make law.
Singh stood firm in Parliament on Team Anna’s efforts to force their version of the bill on the country and the potential adverse impact the agitation could have on Indian economy. He was later soundly backed by HRD minister Kapil Sibal and Chidambaram in the Lok Sabha debate.
While both the PM and Chidambaram tried to pacify parliamentarians by emphasising its law making prerogative, the situation on the streets has the potential of turning ugly.
Already there are indications that the government will try to re-engage Team Anna either through the standing committee examining the lokpal bill or through an all-party parliamentary group. The other option is a relook at making the PM accountable to lokpal.
Though the UPA brass is buying the home ministry’s assessment that the street protests will fizzle out in the coming days due to fatigue, it is at the same time looking at the PM to provide political succour to the agitated masses. The situation, many a senior central ministers feel, could get complicated if Anna again refuses to give any undertaking to Delhi Police on the duration of the proposed fast at Ramlila Maidan.
Singh will be under pressure in the coming days to get the agitated masses on the streets to see reason and calm down. Dismissing the present agitation as one of the many seen in the past may not help.