Anna’s fast: Govt huddles over decision on Lokpal

With civil society leader Anna Hazare’s fast entering its eighth day, a worried UPA government is likely to soften its stand and may include Prime Minister within the jurisdiction of the anti-graft ombudsman as demanded by the civil society.

As per reports, in view of the increasing public pressure, the government is also expected to take a decision on placing the Jan Lokpal Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee. However, it still has no quick-fix formula and the government is mulling over various options. 

Congress party’s main crisis mangers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and Ahmed Patel yesterday held a meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence to discuss the party’s strategy on the issue.

During the meeting, it is believed that the top Congress leaders agreed on placing the Jan Lokpal bill as a corrigendum in Parliament. However, the government is in no mood to withdraw its version of the Lokpal Bill and a final decision in this regard could be taken today.

In a bid to break the logjam on the issue, the government is also likely to take the Opposition onboard and convince them that the civil society cannot be allowed to bypass Parliament.

The BJP, Left and other parties like the DMK are opposed to keeping the PM outside the Lokpal’s purview. Even if the government agrees to such an initiative, it is also not likely to guarantee that the agitating civil society members will accept this as a basis to end their agitation.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had, in past, argued for keeping his office within Lokpal’s ambit but was overruled by a majority in the Cabinet who felt that such a move could tie the Premier in knots and paralyze the government with motivated complaints. So it would be interesting to see how the government tackles the issue. Interestingly, Prime Minister himself gave indications on Monday that his government was willing to have a “reasoned debate” on the issue.

Reacting to his statement, Hazare also said that if he government is really willing to end the deadlock, it should send a representative to hold talks.

The fasting Hazare however added that he would negotiate only with Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) or Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

The Government is contemplating the option of requesting the Standing Committee to ensure that its proceeding is completed within two months, reports claim.

The Government’s next option, say sources, is calling a special session of Parliament if need be.

The government is aware of the anti-corruption sentiment, which has been rising in the public due to the Anna campaign, so if it relents to bring the PM within Lokpal, it will help end Congress party’s isolation in Parliament.

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