A sudden conciliatory gesture by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reach out to the diminutive 74-year-old Anna Hazare on Tuesday brought the government and Team Anna to the negotiating table within hours.Singh offered to place Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill before the parliamentary standing committee and urged him to end his fast. Singh’s letter to Hazare came hours after Team Anna’s associates made their first face-to-face contact with law minister Salman Khurshid in the afternoon and was followed by a longer late evening meeting with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who would lead the government’s negotiators.
The late night negotiations have assumed some urgency in view of Hazare’s failing health. Mukherjee reiterated Singh’s appeal to end the indefinite fast, saying Hazare’s life was too precious.
After the dialogue between Mukherjee and Team Anna, the PM convened a late night meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.
Team Anna negotiator Arvind Kejriwal told mediapersons that the government had no objection to bringing the PM under the purview of the lokpal and to consultations with Team Anna to strengthen the draft judicial accountability law.
“They have sought time to respond to three demands: covering the lower bureaucracy, (appointment of) lokayuktas in states and penalising government servants who do not stick to deadlines in their respective citizen’s charters,” Kejriwal said.
Singh’s letter to Hazare said, “I have maintained that your and our objective is identical. At worst, our paths and methodologies may differ.”
The letter, which started with Singh expressing “increasing concern” over Hazare’s health, pointed out that the government was responsible to the will of the people as represented by Parliament.
Sources said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who played a key role in drafting the letter, met the PM earlier in the day. The letter was prompted by concern over Hazare’s health and the need to send a signal that it might be possible to accommodate divergent views without compromising on parliamentary and constitutional norms.