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Differences within govt on engaging Hazare

delhi Updated: Aug 19, 2011 01:36 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times
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As Ramlila Maidan is spruced up for Anna Hazare's protest fast from Friday, the internal security establishment is at odds with the UPA leadership over how to handle the agitation as the social activist insists that his team's version of the Lokpal Bill be turned into law.

While the security establishment apprehends larger public mobilisation from Friday, top UPA leaders feel there is no need to engage with him on the lokpal issue as fatigue will soon hit the anti-corruption movement.

Sources said the UPA government has no objection to Team Anna meeting the parliamentary standing committee studying the lokpal bill again but it is in no mood to make further concessions. “There is no way that the government will set up another committee to deal with Anna as the bill is already with the standing committee,” a senior minister said.

UPA crisis managers are quite clear that there could be no further compromise on the lokpal issue with Hazare, including the possibility of including the PM in the ambit of the institution's enquiry. Taking a hard line, the managers are advocating that the heart of the city should not be allowed for protests similar to Anna's in future. “Have you seen a fast unto death or any such protest on Capitol Hill or outside Westminster Abbey?” a senior minister asked.

This hard line is being countered by equally strong arguments by internal security managers, who believe that Hazare's support among the masses is mounting.

The security assessment is that with Hazare determined to push his version of the bill, the government would find it difficult to deal with large public mobilisations in Delhi and across the country.

They feel that the sight of the 74-year-old activist fasting at Ramlila Maidan could spur many other protest fasts all over the country to press for implementation of Team Hazare's jan lokpal bill.

Senior security officials also apprehend that with masses chanting anti-corruption slogans against the government, the public mood could turn ugly if there is no meeting ground between the government and Team Hazare in the coming days.