NEW DELHI: Anxious to resolve the standoff with the Anna Hazare group over Lokpal, the government appeared set to relent on placing the Prime Minister within the jurisdiction of the anti-graft ombudsman. “We don't have any problem in placing PM within the scope of Lokpal,” senior government sources indicated.
Although they made it plain that they don't agree with Team Anna's demand that Jan Lokpal Bill should be the sole reference point for the creation of an anti-corruption watchdog and insisted that Parliament would only discuss the legislation approved by the Standing Committee, the re-think on including the PM in Lokpal is a significant concession as well as a tactical move to break the logjam.
In another significant move, the government has fast-tracked the process to draft a Grievance Redressal Bill which will deal with corruption faced by the common man it getting licences and other clearances, as well benefits under government schemes. The draft of the proposed law is expected to be put up for public discussion by this weekend.
Besides mollifying the anti-corruption sentiment that has being powering the Anna campaign, the move to bring the PM within Lokpal is also aimed to help end Congress's isolation in Parliament. The BJP, Left and other parties like the DMK are opposed to keeping the PM outside the Lokpal's purview.
However, while these concessions may potentially narrow the divergence between the two sides, there was still no indication of the activists accepting this as a basis to end their agitation. Manmohan Singh had argued for keeping his office within Lokpal's ambit but was overruled by a majority in the Cabinet who felt that such a move could tie a prime minister in knots and paralyze the government with motivated complaints.
On Monday, however, the tune was different. Sources indicated that PM's inclusion could be unconditional, reflecting a drastic re-think forced by Anna Hazare's huge mass mobilization. Spurred by swelling crowds, Team Anna continued with its pressure tactic, denying that they were negotiating with the government through negotiators. It said it would settle for none other than an empowered representative of the PM. Rahul Gandhi or Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan as negotiators.
Law minister Salman Khurshid said that the Grievance Redressal Bill was part of a bouquet of new laws that the government aims to bring – on judicial accountability, whistleblowers, Lokpal and a legislation to strengthen the CVC. This, he said, was a multi-pronged anti-corruption strategy envisaged by government.
The chairman of the Standing Committee, Abhishek Singhvi, however, said that a solution is possible if the civil society agreed to defer its activism for a while. Asserting that the committee can come up with a constructive solution, Singhvi said, “If the Standing Committee strains its every sinew to fast-track its proceedings, look at the huge amount of diverse inputs, and hold intense deliberations, it can submit a report as early as eight weeks from now.”
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