M A I N   N E W S

LS to debate 3 Lokpal drafts today
Ground laid by PM, who reaches out to Gandhian directly; Lok Sabha too urges Anna to end fast
Anita Katyal & Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
In an unprecedented move aimed at diffusing the crisis caused by Anna Hazare’s continuing fast in favour of the Jan Lokpal Bill, the House of the People today joined Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in urging the activist to abandon his protest and assuring him of the passage of a strong Bill.

In one voice, the Lok Sabha urged Anna: “Your life is much too precious…”, even as the government agreed to debate in the House tomorrow all three versions of the Lokpal Bill in the public domain, including the ones drafted by Anna and team, Aruna Roy and the Jayprakash Narayan group.

Earlier, the ground for this development was laid by the PM who, for the first time in the 10 days that Hazare has been on fast, reached out to the activist directly, saluted his idealism and proposed a precedent the LS has never before seen, one of debating a Bill before referring it to the parliamentary committee.

Today the PM moved further towards conciliation. “We could have a debate in this House on all the Bills (Lokpal) in public domain and then send the whole record for the consideration of the Standing Committee. This will meet the point Anna and his colleagues have been making that the Parliament must have a chance to give its views on their Bill before sending it to the Committee. This is one via media which will respect parliamentary supremacy and also enable the Parliament to take on board ideas contained in the Bill drafted by Anna Hazare,” he said.

In the appeal which Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj readily backed and Speaker Meira Kumar articulated as the urge of the House, there was a personal touch with the PM saying, “Anna Hazare has made his point. It has been registered with us. I respect his idealism. He has become the embodiment of people’s concern about corruption. I applaud him. I salute him. His life is much too precious and I would urge him to end his fast.”

“When we discuss the Bill, whether in Parliament or the committee, we will work with a single-minded devotion to ensure an effective Bill. The Standing Committee can consider all options and we can find ways of ensuring that the Bill prepared by Anna is given due consideration by the Committee. Along with this there are other Bills…,” he said, defending himself and the Government over charges BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi had yesterday levelled during the debate on the issue.

With the two sides under pressure to end the persisting logjam at the earliest, both pulled back from the brink to meet each other half-way.

The debate, which is to be held under rule 193, will end with the adoption of a motion committing Parliament to the enactment of a strong and effective Lokpal Bill but there will be no vote on the Bill. The records of this debate will then be sent for the consideration of the Parliamentary standing committee on law and justice, which is already scrutinising the Lokpal Bill.

On its part, Team Anna dropped its earlier conditions that its version of the Bill be introduced in Parliament within the next four days and passed in the ongoing session without it being referred to the standing committee. Kiran Bedi, a key member of Team Anna, declared this evening that Anna Hazare will end his fast if the Lok Sabha adopts a motion on bringing in a strong Lokpal Bill.

At one stage, Hazare had set August 30 for the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill but today it insisted that tomorrow’s discussions take note of its three key outstanding demands: a single Bill for a Lokpal and state Lokayuktas, bring lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal and draw up citizen’s charter for each ministry. The government’s formulation, which was articulated by the Prime Minister in his reply to the debate on corruption in the Lok Sabha, has enabled both sides to claim victory. While Team Anna can draw satisfaction from the fact that it forced a debate on its version of the Bill in the Lok Sabha, the government has been able to ensure that Parliamentary procedures are not short-circuited. It stood its ground that nobody should be allowed to dictate terms to Parliament, a view which was endorsed by all political parties. Although it had appeared that the negotiations between the two sides had hit a dead end last night, fresh attempts were made today to end the ongoing impasse. Sidelining members of his team, whose stand was clearly inflexible, the government reached out to Anna directly through Union Minister and former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, who first met with him in the afternoon.

The government’s decision to approach Anna Hazare directly followed when the Gandhian sent feelers that he was amenable to a compromise provided a senior political leader was depute to meet him. There was also a realisation in the government that Anna Hazare had become a prisoner of his team members who are hardliners and are also divided. This was evident when Kiran Bedi, the Gandhian’s key associate, told a news channel, that Anna Hazare will call off his fast if the Parliament adopts a motion on the enactment of a strong Lokpal Bill. She was, however, contradicted by another Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan, who said there was no going back until the motion took a clear view on the three sticking points on which there was no agreement with the government.

Manmohan SinghWe could have a debate in this House on all the Bills (Lokpal) in public domain and then send the whole record for the consideration of the Standing Committee. This will meet the point Anna and his colleagues have been making that Parliament must have a chance to give its views on their Bill before sending it to the Committee.

— Manmohan Singh

Three Bills for discussion

A firm assurance said that the government would find ways of discussing the Jan Lokpal Bill, its own Bill and those drafted by the Jayprakash Narayan group and Aruna Roy to “have the best possible Bill which does credit to everyone’s concerns about corruption.”

Hazare fast: Signs of breakthrough?

Signs of a breakthrough emerged with the government being open to a discussion in Parliament on the Jan Lokpal Bill, a step forward towards ending the impasse with Anna Hazare. Hazare set three conditions to break his 10-day fast declaring that all civil servants should be brought under Lokpal, a Citizen Charter should be displayed at all government offices and all states should have Lokayuktas. Hazare said that if Parliament considered the Jan Lokpal bill and there was an agreement within the House on these three conditions, he would break his fast.

Nitin GadkariThe BJP accepts draft of Jan Lokpal Bill to be the basis for a strong and effective Lokpal to be put in place at the earliest without getting into procedural wrangles.

— Nitin Gadkari, BJP president





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