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Team Anna, Govt in another round of talks on Lokpal

August 24
03:53 2011

Team Anna

NEW DELHI: Carrying forward their dialogue, government and Team Anna today held another round of discussions to sort of sticky issues even as government insisted that ending of fast by the Gandhian assumed greater urgency than passage of Lokpal Bill.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid met Hazare’s associates Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi at his residence to resolve differences which persisted after last night’s deliberations between the civil society activists and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit, who is believed to be negotiating through back-channel, was also present at the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Khurshid told reporters that passage of the Lokpal Bill could take more than 20 days but the fast could not go on till then.

“The urgency of the fast to come to an end is far greater and far serious,” he said. .
The Law Minister said the Government was carrying out an exercise to find some method by which Hazare’s fast could be brought to an end and then proceed to find solutions to each of issues of divergence.

Asked if the Government and civil society members had reached any agreement after talks last night, he said, “That will be going too far. Whatever agreement we had was done during the nine meetings we had. We are looking at the implications of what we have put in, what they wanted and have desired and why those implications have become so rigid that we have reached a point that Anna Hazareji is fasting.”

The Law Minister said the Government was not yet in any position to say that it has reached agreement on any issue.

“The problem is the modality of agreement and discussion rather than what we agree on. We know that what they are looking for and they know for three months where is our hesitations and what are our compulsions. whether they are political compulsions or the constitutional compulsions and we have let them know about them,” he said.

On whether the Government was planning to give a written assurance to the civil society, he said, “We have not reached that stage yet. At present, we are working on the modalities to take the issue forward. Those efforts are not yet very successful. Our priority is Annaji’s health at the moment.”

Citing examples of problem areas in the bill, he said the civil society members want the MPs to be accountable to the Lokpal.

“We are saying MPs are accountable subject only to the constitutional immunities. We can’t remove the constitutional immunities in a bill called the Lokpal Bill. They will have to be a constitutional amendment bill,” he said. .
Khurshid said that nobody has been authorized to talk about a constitutional amendment bill.

“It will have a lot of implications. MPs will have to decide honestly and genuinely whether immunity is necessary for them for free expression of views in Parliament. Now if that is necessary we can’t take it away,” he said.

Asked whether there would be any climbdown by the Government on the issue, he said, “I don’t like the word climbdown at all. We have to find convergence, that is my belief. This is my personal view that convergence is entirely possible but convergence in the very instant you start talking does not happen.”

He said the Government has not asked anybody to talk on the issue and it is only “those who have relations or can take constructive initiatives. But government has not asked anybody.”

“The Prime Minister has written a letter. When a response to that letter comes, the Prime Minister will decide what is to be done,” he said.

Asked about the all-party meeting today, he said, “I don’t predict anything but it is our sincere effort to find a common position in Parliament.”

“If we can’t have a common position with Anna Hazare and his friends, we should have a common position with all our colleagues in parliament. That is our fundamental duty and we are trying to achieve it,” the Law Minister said. -PTI

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