Govt may bring PM under Lokpal ambit

Centre-Team Anna hold direct talks

New Delhi: Government and Team Anna on Tuesday night began discussions on the Lokpal issue amidst clear indications that government might consider bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of the anti-corruption ombudsman while differences persisted on other key issues during the inconclusive talks.

The negotiations capped a day of fast-moving developments which saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appoint Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the negotiator and immediately thereafter three members of Team Anna Hazare met him.

After three hours of talks, Team Anna said they made it clear to the government that the official Lokpal Bill should either be withdrawn or allowed to lapse and the Jan Lokpal Bill should be introduced and passed in the current session of Parliament by extending it, if necessary.

They also rejected the Prime Minister’s offer to send the Jan Lokpal Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. “We have told them that it is not acceptable,” Arvind Kejriwal, a top associate of Hazare, told a gathering at Ramlila Maidan where the veteran activist’s fast entered the second week.

A frail-looking 74-year-old Hazare disregarded doctors’ advise to him to be put on drips which he first accepted but later rejected heeding his “inner conscience”.

The talks followed the Prime Minister’s letter to Hazare in which he appealed to him to end the fast saying he and the government have “abiding interest” in his health.

The Prime Minister’s initiative saw Law Minister Salman Khurshid meeting Kejriwal at a flat near East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit’s residence where it was conveyed that Mukherjee would negotiate with Hazare’s team. Shortly after the discussions, the Prime Minister called a meeting of his senior collegues where Mukherjee and Khurshid briefed them on the negotiations. Kejriwal said that during the discussions with Mukherjee it was conveyed that the basic principles of the Jan Lokpal Bill should be preserved and the Law Ministry should vet the draft in two-three days and get back to them.

“The Congress, UPA and the government should give a committment that it will support the Bill and get it passed in this session itself, if required by extending it by two-three days,” Kejriwal said.

Prashant Bhushan, another Hazare associate, said the government appeared to have no objection to bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal, while on judges, the government promised they will bring a separate law and “show it to us”.

Kejriwal said there were differences on three points — Citizen’s Charter, inclusion of lower bureaucracy and setting up of state Lokayukta. He said the government would get back to them later. (PTI)

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