No consensus at all-party meet on Lokpal bill

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New Delhi: An all-party meeting called on late Wednesday to evolve a consensus on the Lokpal bill ended inconclusively, as Team Anna warned it might resume its protest campaign on December 27 either in Delhi or in Mumbai.

The ruling and the opposition parties failed to break the deadlock even after three hours of free and frank discussion, indicating major differences of opinion. There was no commitment from the government on the passage of bill in this session, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ramvilas Paswan said after the three-hour meeting.

Two senior opposition leaders said the government appeared not keen to bring the Prime Minister’s office, Group C government employees and the CBI within the Lokpal ambit.

If the logjam is not resolved at the earliest, parliament would fail to pass a consensual effective Lokpal Bill in the current session ending on December 22, setting the stage for another show of strength by Team Anna.

A political party leader said the government had informed the parties at the meeting that it was willing to bring the Prime Minister under Lokpal with exception about his work relating to internal security, public order, atomic energy, space and external affairs.

However, there were reservations to bringing the lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal. The government also told the parties about the views of the CBI, whose director A.P. Singh had earlier met Prime Minister.

Before the meeting began, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government was ‘committed’ to implementing in ‘letter and spirit’ a “good and effective ombudsman bill based on political consensus.”

But three hours later, the picture was anything but rosy.

“They have not come out with solid proposal. Till the time we get firm proposals from the government, it is not possible to give views,” Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters after the meeting ended.

He said the government may convene another all party meeting to convey its proposal or bring them in the form of amended legislations.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sushma Swaraj echoed the same sentiments.

“On contentious issues, we reiterated our stand on the lines of the dissent note submitted by our members to the standing committee,” Swaraj further tweeted.

The BJP has asked for inclusion of the Prime Minister, Group C government employees and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the ambit of the Lokpal. They also want a citizen’s charter under the Lokpal.

Team Anna was quick to react.

Its key member Kiran Bedi tweeted, “Don’t blame people on existing trust deficit. Can anyone take any commitment seriously here after. New year in Mumbai/Delhi. With unmet demand for Jan Lokpal?”

Earlier, Arvind Kejriwal had said that Team Anna had always wanted CBI to be under Lokpal.

“We feel that Lokpal without its own investigation arm which can only be CBI, is just an empty tinbox,” he said. Another member Prashant Bhushan said inclusion of Prime Minister, CBI, lower bureaucracy and citizen’s charter were critical issues for Team Hazare.

Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ramvilas Paswan said members of different political parties at the all-party meeting had said that the government should not work ‘under extra pressure’ and “no decision should be taken in a hurry”.

Paswan said the parties emphasised that “the supremacy of parliament should be maintained.”

He also said the government had not given a commitment that the Lokpal bill will be passed in the ongoing winter session of parliament.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Gurudas Dasgupta said that the party wants the Indian Prime Minister to be under Lokpal with certain exceptions.