After failing to persuade the Anna Hazare camp to drop its demand to include the prime minister in the ambit of the lokpal’s powers of enquiry, the government now plans to call an all-party meeting to seek the views of political parties on the issue before sending the draft bill for the cabinet’s consideration.
The decision to convene the meeting was taken after the Congress Core Group — which includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi — held two rounds of consultations on Friday and Saturday over the persisting stalemate on the issue at the joint drafting committee of ministers and civil society members.
Though parties are expected to attend the meeting, some are unlikely to bail out the government from the sticky situation it finds itself in. It would help the government if parties rule out an institution like the lokpal as detrimental to the constitutional scheme of a parliamentary democracy. Even a divided opinion would help it keep the contentious issues out of the proposed bill.
“We are not opposed to participating in an all-party meeting to seek views. But first, we would like to have the views of the Congress and the government on bringing the prime minister within the lokpal’s ambit,” said BJP’s Ravishankar Prasad.
The Congress had on Friday said it would go by the decision of the panel and the government. Panel member and HRD minister Kapil Sibal said on Saturday, “Within the government, we feel prima facie, the prime minister should not be covered. But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution.”
The government is also against bringing the higher judiciary and the CBI and CVC under the lokpal’s purview.
There are reports that a draft bill, giving the versions of the two sides, would be presented to the parties and the cabinet for a final decision. But the Left may not play ball even on this.
“They should give us the entire draft bill, the one they are going to bring in Parliament. How can a proper discussion take place without it?,” said CPI’s D Raja.
“This is not the way to consult political parties... Once we get such a communication (for an all-party meeting), we will definitely discuss the matter within our party. We will also consult other Left parties.”