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Round one to Anna Hazare, fast ends today

delhi Updated: Apr 09, 2011 02:20 IST
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The four-day face-off between the government and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare came to an end on Friday night as the government agreed to issue an official order to set up a 10-member joint committee of ministers and civil society activists to draft a new Lokpal Bill.

The much-awaited development will be formalised when Hazare breaks his indefinite fast on Saturday morning after receiving the government order.

Finance minister and the government's trouble-shooter Pranab Mukherjee will head the drafting panel that will include home minister P Chidambaram, telecom minister Kapil Sibal, law minister Veerappa Moily and water resources minister Salman Khurshid from the government side.

Former law minister Shanti Bhushan is Hazare's choice as co-chairman of the committee.

The other members from the crusading camp will be Karnataka Lokayukta justice Santosh Hegde, activist Arvind Kejriwal, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Hazare himself.

The government order has set a deadline of June 30 for the panel to complete its work so that the Bill can be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.

But before the deal was sealed, there were plenty of hiccups on a day of high drama that began with Hazare's colleagues not turning up in the morning to attend a meeting with telecom minister Kapil Sibal.

But by the evening, it appeared that the government had relented to their demands.

Emerging from Sibal's residence around 7pm, Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi hinted that the issue might have been resolved.

"Please wait for 10 minutes and come to Jantar Mantar. Hazare ji will make an announcement that will make everyone happy. Please take the hint," Agnivesh said.

It was not 10 minutes, though. After a long wait of nearly two hours, a beaming Hazare appeared on the stage amid loud cheering from his supporters and asked his supporters to wait till Saturday.

"I have not called off my fast yet. We will have to wait for the government's official order," he said before leaving the stage.

Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi conferred with their senior colleagues, with Gandhi insisting that the crisis be resolved by the end of the day.

In between, Singh had another round of consultations in which Khurshid was also roped in.

Meanwhile, to counter the negative publicity, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni and health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had an informal meeting with the heads of television news channels to apprise them of the government's efforts on the Bill.

TV channels beamed images of people gathering at India Gate in the Capital and Gateway of India in Mumbai and the festive atmosphere at Jantar Mantar.