After two top level meetings focused on the Anna issue within 36 hours, the Manmohan Singh government is prepared for a debate on the Lokpal Bill but still not prepared to dilute the sanctity of Parliament despite mounting pressure from the thronging crowd at Ramlila ground.
A day after the PM met all the top officials of the government, he chaired the core group meeting this evening to take stock of the situation, arising out of country-wide protests in support of Anna Hazare, with senior UPA ministers and a party functionary. Official estimates today put the crowds at some 40,000 people at Ramlila ground with a floating movement of another 15,000-20,000 persons during the day. The official assessment is that spontaneous crowds will be replaced by organised groups of youth including those with BJP’s student wing ABVP background and farmers from outside Delhi by Wednesday. But the government expects the numbers to go down.
According to sources, despite stray discordant voices within the Congress and government, the PM was trying to build a consensus among the core group members on his belief that Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill could in no way be forced down Parliament and the right forum for the Gandhian was to engage the standing committee currently examining the government-piloted Lokpal Bill.
With Ahmed Patel in the core group, the Congress party also got updated on the Anna’s moves and the government response.
While a section of government floated the idea about government amending the Lokpal Bill with clauses taken from the Anna’s Jan Lokpal draft before the core group meeting, this was shot down by the UPA crisis managers as it meant withdrawal of Bill from the Standing Committee and a huge victory for the Gandhian.
The core group meeting came after Prime Minister discussed the implications of Anna Hazare fast-protest with top government officials on Sunday morning and has directed them to keep him personally abreast of all country-wide developments on the raging issue. This was the first time that the PM summoned all his top officials on the Anna Hazare issue.