In sharp contrast to their public posturing at Jantar Mantar last Sunday, many opposition parties on Wednesday night asked the government behind closed doors not to bring the lokpal bill in haste and give an impression that the legislation was being finalised under duress.
After the three-hour meeting that ended without any consensus on key provisions of the bill, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said the government would require "reasonable time" to finalise the legislation and that it could "spill over" beyond this session that is slated to end on December 22.In a direct reference to anti-graft campaigner Anna Hazare's threat of going on an indefinite fast from December 27 if the bill is not passed, leaders like Mohan Singh of the Samajwadi Party and CPI's Gurudas Dasgupta said the government should not succumb to anyone threatening to give up his life for the bill.
Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete went to the extent of questioning the need for a lokpal. "We are opposed to a super power centre which will not be accountable to anyone. How can there be an institution above the Constitution?" he asked.
At the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "evolve a broad consensus on the lokpal bill", the opposition parties also warned the government that "anything done in haste will not be good for the country as it will have long-term repercussions".
NDA convenor and Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav -- who had assured Team Anna at Jantar Mantar that not even a comma or full stop would be changed from the sense of the House adopted on the lokpal -- was the most vocal among the leaders who opposed the inclusion of the Prime Minister under the lokpal's ambit.RJD leader Lalu Prasad wanted to know from the UPA the extent to which they were willing to fight for the supremacy of Parliament in the wake of Hazare's latest threat.
All the major parties stuck to their publicly stated positions on contentious issues of the bill but a new demand of providing reservation to weaker sections of the society, women and minorities in the search committee, selection panel and the lokpal itself found widespread support.
On the contentious issue of whether the CBI should be brought under the lokpal, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj set the tone, saying her party had "never said that the CBI should be under the lokpal".
Swaraj said the CBI should be freed from the government's control and an independent panel should appoint the probe agency's director. This view was supported by majority of the parties.