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Ministers differed on final approach

delhi Updated: Aug 29, 2011 01:07 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times
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The government resolved divergent views among its senior ministers and took along the opposition, before Parliament adopted the resolution endorsing Anna Hazre's key demands, which paved the way for him to call off his fast on Sunday. Sources say the differences among the ministers were essentially on three issues.

Firstly, whether it would be politically prudent for a parliamentary resolution to say the Houses agreed "in principle" to the three key demands of Team Anna. This, at a time when Parliament's standing committee is supposed to go into the issue.

The second point of contention was whether the Houses should adopt a resolution accepting the demands by a voice vote as sought by Team Anna.

The third point, importantly, was about including Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's call for a strong Lokpal to be a Constitutional body accountable to Parliament, like the Election Commission.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee consulted leader of opposition Arun Jaitley soon after the former made his opening statements in the two Houses to kickstart the debate on Anna's demands.

Jaitley gave Mukherjee the idea of a formulation that the Houses "in principle" agree to consider Hazare's "three points". Mukherjee found it a workable proposal.

But, sources said, Sibal felt the House resolution could not state "in principle" agreement on issues, which were yet to be taken up by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Sibal also had reservation over the proposal for a voice vote for passage of the resolution, which came up after talks between law minister Salman Khurshid and Team Anna members. Sibal suggested that a line be added to the resolution to include the proposal of Rahul Gandhi for Lokpal to be a Constitutional authority.

Mukherjee, who was assisted by Khurshid, minister of state Rajeev Shukla and Congress MP Sandip Dikshit, sought to convince Sibal that any "addition or deletion" in the resolution might start fresh problems.

But they agreed with Sibal that voice vote was not necessary to adopt the resolution. Finally, it was adopted by the two Houses by thumping of desks. Mukherjee asked Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to explain this to Hazare, if necessary.

A storm in the tea cup, however, was Team Anna member Prashan Bhushan's assertion that he was informed that there would be no vote on the resolution as the BJP was opposed to it. Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj took objection to this perception, saying the BJP had in fact mooted a debate ending with a vote.

Soon afterwards, Jaitley got in touch with Mukherjee, who in turn invited the top BJP leaders for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.