New Delhi: The government and anti-corruption activists were on Thursday deadlocked on the demand over the chairmanship of a joint committee to draft an effective Lokpal Bill and its notification though government agreed to bring the legislation during Monsoon session of Parliament.
As Gandhian Anna Hazare’s fast-unto-death entered the third day, government opened a line of communication with the activists with Union minister Kapil Sibal holding two rounds of talks with Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal.
“We had two rounds of discussions. We have agreed on almost all issues but there is no agreement on two issues, that is issuing an official notification to form the committee and making Hazare the chairman of the committee,” Sibal told reporters after the second round of talks at his residence.
“So we need more time and we will meet again on Friday and see we can evolve a procedure with which we can move ahead,” Sibal said.
He said the government has agreed to form the committee now and not after 13 May as it had suggested in the first round of talks and will definitely be introducing the Bill in the Monsoon session of Parliament.
The proposed panel will have five members each from government and civil society.
“The government has agreed to our demands. But our two demands are yet to be met. We will convey this to Hazare,” Agnivesh said.
Hazare, who his admirers and followers have been demanding should head the committee, reacted saying he would not like to head the committee.
“If you want I can be a member or adviser, but not the chairperson,” Hazare said. Earlier Kejriwal Hazare was of the view that a retired judge should be the chairman of the committee as the government suggested that Pranab Mukherjee head the panel.
However, he said, when this proposal was put forward to his supporters they unanimously demanded that Hazare be the chairperson of the joint committee.
After the first round of talks between Sibal and Agnivesh and Kejriwal, Hazare told the gathering assembled at his fast site in Jantar Mantar that he would not call off his fast until the demands were not met.
More people, including school children, have joined the protest here even as support for the 71-year-old Gandhian across the country with people staging demonstrations in various capitals.
“In the first round of talks, Sibal had told us that the government was ready to constitute a joint committee with five members each from the civil society and the government. This we accepted,” he said.
Kejriwal said the activists had suggested to the minister to officially notify the formation of the committee which the minister rejected.
“Sibal told us it won’t be possible and that he will announce to the media about the formation of the committee but there will be no formal notification. What is the guarantee when the minister only announces the formation of the committee and there is no formal notification. They are trying to make a fool of us,” he said.
In the first round of talks, Kejriwal claimed, the government expressed its inability to give a timeline for bringing the Lokpal Bill. He said Sibal also expressed their inability in forming the committee before 13 May as Union ministers were busy due to campaigning for state elections.
“In the second round, we suggested that those who are not busy should be brought in the committee. This was accepted by the government,” he said.
The decision to open a negotiation channel with activists came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s discussions with some Cabinet colleagues last night. It was immediately followed by Sibal’s meeting with the activists.
Asked whether he has discussed with Singh the developments, Sibal said “when I am standing here, then it is with authority.”
Earlier in the day, Hazare, who has lost 1.5 kg in the past three days, said there was no need for anyone to worry about his health as he can go with the fast for another seven days. He is in good shape though there has been a rise in his blood pressure and he is feeling weak.
Hazare said he was not averse to dialogue but such discussions should take place with those who have power to take decisions. “When did we say no to dialogue. Dialogue should take place with those who have power to take decisions, whether (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh),” he said.
Addressing a gathering of his followers and school students at the Jantar Mantar dharna site here, Hazare rejected allegations that he was aligned with BJP and RSS and said he has nothing to do with them.
“I have been working for the society for long time. For the past 35 years, I have not gone home. I have three brothers and I don’t know the names of their children. I don’t have any bank balance. I ask people to put Rs 5 or Rs 10 in our carry bag.
“Through this, I have kept myself fighting for the public. What have I to do with Congress or BJP? The country which is a gold chest has drowned in dismay because of those who ran the country,” Hazare said, adding some people are still criticizing him.
“If they had done so much, why is it that the country is still in a mess?” he asked.