M A I N   N E W S

Lokpal panel report a fraud: Anna
Prime Minister calls all-party meeting on Wednesday 
Anita Katyal & Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 10
Unnerved by Anna Hazare’s fresh declaration of war and faced with divisions within the political class, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has convened an all-party meeting on Wednesday to discuss matters relating to the Lokpal Bill.

Anna Hazare, who arrived in the Capital to participate in a one-day token protest at the Jantar Mantar tomorrow, has threatened to campaign against the Congress in the next year’s Assembly polls and will continue till the 2014 general elections.

The UPA government is in a fix as it was hoping that the recommendations of the Parliamentary standing committee, which is represented by all political parties, would serve as a basis for drafting a fresh Lokpal Bill. But it faces an uphill task as 16 dissent notes have been appended to the final report with the main opposition party, the BJP, aligning itself largely with Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill on key issues.

Having learnt a bitter lesson on the last two occasions when Anna Hazare undertook an indefinite fast, the UPA government has decided to reach out to leaders of all political parties to build consensus on the final shape of the Lokpal Bill. The meeting with the Opposition parties will be preceded with a round of consultations with the UPA allies.

The meeting of the Union Cabinet slated for Tuesday is likely to discuss the Lokpal Bill, currently being drafted by a high-level ministerial team. This draft may be shared with party leaders on Wednesday to minimise the differences so that the Bill can be passed in Parliament without any acrimony.

UPA sources said the Cabinet could meet again after Wednesday’s deliberations to finalise the Lokpal Bill. The government wants to introduce the Bill by December 19 so that it can be debated and passed by December 22 when the winter session comes to a close.

“ Since this is an important legislation and all political parties are equally concerned about tackling the menace of corruption, we thought it is important to talk to them and seek their suggestions,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said today.

There are indications that the government will agree to the inclusion of Prime Minister and lower bureaucracy (with conditions) under the ambit of the Lokpal. Sources said Group C employees could be included in the Bill with the condition that only complaints of corruption that attract penal provisions will be entertained by the CVC, which will investigate these cases under the supervision of the Lokpal.

By doing so, the government will keep the promise it made in the ‘sense of the House' resolution moved by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on August 27 which spoke of bringing the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal “through an appropriate mechanism.

Meanwhile, Anna Hazare has trained his guns on the Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi. While absolving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he charged that Rahul had directed the standing committee to dilute its report. “The government has not kept its word given by the Prime Minister to me while I was fasting at Ramlila Grounds. The standing committee report by Abhishek Singhvi is a fraud on the entire nation,” Anna thundered, adding that he would launch a country-wide campaign against the Congress which will continue for the next two years.

Unlike the previous occasions, Team Anna has invited all political parties to participate in a public debate on the Lokpal tomorrow. Except the Congress, which declined Team Anna’s invitation, most other parties, including the BJP and the Left parties, are sending their representatives.

Rejecting the standing committee’s recommendations, Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal lashed out at the government, saying it had no intention of bringing a strong Lokpal Bill.

Team Anna members said they would decide the direction of their agitation after the government tables the bill in Parliament though they have announced plans for another protest at the Ramlila Grounds from December 27.

Team Anna plan

Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan say activists will wait for the government to table the draft bill before deciding on the direction the agitation will take from December 27 onward.





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