A day after it appeared to have stitched together a broad political consensus on not pushing through the lokpal bill in haste, the government on Thursday decided to play safe by fast-tracking the process to move the bill in Parliament next week.
Following this, Team Anna toned down its strident stand.
"We will consider postponing Anna Hazare's fast if the government proves its commitment by introducing a strong, amended lokpal bill by next week and indicates a clear date by which it will be passed," key Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan told HT.
Earlier in the day, anti-graft campaigner Hazare announced that his team would launch a "jail bharo" agitation from January 1 in addition to his already announced indefinite fast from December 27.
He also threatened to sit on dharna in front of the houses of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP and the Left parties also toughened their respective stands, demanding that the bill be passed during the ongoing winter session itself.
The government, which, till Thursday afternoon, had indicated that it might be difficult to pass the lokpal bill during this session since barely five working days are left, began to show signs of urgency by evening.
It is considering two options:
* Move the bill with changes (amendments) approved by the cabinet in Parliament by Tuesday and extend the session by a day to allow both houses to discuss and pass it by December 23; or
* Move the bill next week and then convene a three or four-day special session of Parliament in mid-January to pass it.
"That would help in reducing the tension on contentious issues of the bill," a senior minister said.
The government strategy is to avoid being blamed for delaying the bill, since the main opposition parties seemed to be going back on the broad consensus reached on Wednesday that the bill must not be passed under anyone's pressure.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the government's intention is to bring the bill "for consideration" in this session itself.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has begun consultations on changes the government proposes to make in the lokpal bill.
Home minister P Chidambaram, law minister Salman Khurshid and minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy are also part of the team that will finalise the amendments over the next two-three days.
A senior minister said the inclusion of Prime Minister with certain safeguards and evolving an "appropriate mechanism to include group C employees (lower bureaucracy) under the lokpal's ambit in the amended bill appears a foregone conclusion.
A whip has been issued to Congress MPs to ensure their presence from Monday to Thursday in both houses, Bansal said.