New Delhi: The stand-off between government and Anna Hazare on Friday showed no signs of resolution, with Parliament failing to meet the Gandhian's key demand for a discussion on Jan Lokpal Bill as major political parties sparred on how it should be debated. (Agencies)
The Lok Sabha, which was to discuss Jan Lokpal Bill and other civil society drafts, was caught in a political war between the Congress and BJP on procedural issues and now the matter is expected to come up tomorrow in a different form.
Differences cropped up in Team Anna over the 74-year-old Gandhian continuing his fast as his health caused considerable worry to his doctors.
Anna refuses to break fast
But he refused to end his 11-day hunger strike demanding in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Parliament pass a resolution, accepting three of his key demands -- setting up Lokayuktas in States, covering entire bureaucracy and citizens charter.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who ruled out replacing the official Lokpal Bill, is now expected to make a statement in Lok Sabha tomorrow which will form the basis for a discussion.
Opposition demands debate under Rule 184
However, earlier in the day, Opposition members gave notices for a discussion on the Lokpal issue under a Rule that entails voting while Congress members wanted it under a Rule that does not provide for voting.
Opposition BJP foiled the ruling side's attempt to get it discussed without voting that made the government to change its strategy to go for a debate in a different form.
Team Anna, which was expecting a Parliamentary vote on Friday, reacted sharply, saying that he would end his fast only if three of demands are conceded or at least Jan Lokpal Bill be tabled in Parliament.
Rahul breaks silence
On another day of hectic consultations within government and Congress party, Rahul Gandhi broke his silence and appeared to be critical of Hazare's hunger strike to get his demands met though he felt the Gandhian has helped people articulate their disillusionment with corruption.
In a brief speech, Gandhi said democratic processes should not be weakened by "individual dictates" which could set dangerous precedent.
Though he maintained that Lokpal alone was not enough to eradicate corruption, he favoured the ombudsman to be Constitutional functionary accountable to Parliament, an idea that generated a lot of debate.
Speaker pitches in
As the ruling and Opposition were locked in a confrontation leading to a brief adjournment of Lok Sabha, Speaker Meira Kumar held discussions with leaders of both sides.
The principal Opposition maintained that either the Prime Minister or Leader of the House (Mukherjee) should make a statement on which a discussion could take place or pass a resolution as demanded by Hazare.
It was decided at the meeting that Mukherjee will make a statement which will be followed by a discussion under a Rule that does not entail voting. However, government sources did not rule out voting on a substantive motion if situation demands.
Anna writes to PM
Hazare himself wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in which he said "my inner conscience tells me that if there is a consensus on these proposals (three issues), then I will break my fast."
He was conciliatory to the Prime Minister on the issue of personal attacks on him, saying "if my or my colleagues' words have hurt you or anybody else, I express my regrets. We don't want to hurt anybody."
Pranab rules out Bill withdrawal
Mukherjee, who is the government's chief negotiator with the civil society, expressed concern over Hazare's health and appealed to him to end the fast.
However, he ruled out replacing the official bill on Lokpal, saying the Standing Committee, which is considering it, can suggest recommendations and it was for Parliament to either accept or reject them.
He dismissed a suggestion that the government has been boxed into a corner, saying sometimes some actions of the government may not be liked by the people. "It is nothing new but the current agitation is not good," he said.
BJP slams government
Earlier, BJP accused the government of not being serious about Lokpal Bill or Anna Hazare's fast as it was pressing for a "casual" debate on such an important issue which could lead to the end of the Gandhian's hunger strike.
"Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal had said the discussion on the Lokpal Bill will only take place on Monday. But to our utter surprise we got a call that Sandeep Dikshit (Cong MP) will initiate the debate on Lokpal in five minutes. The government wanted a casual debate on such an important and serious issue," Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said.
The BJP members in Lok Sabha objected, saying they were not given adequate notice and forced adjournment of the House.
Government frames resolution
The government had formulated a resolution which said -- "The document 'Jan Lokpal Bill' drafted by members of the civil society under the leadership of Anna Hazare as also the proposals by prominent civil society groups and eminent citizens for addressing issues of corruption".
However, when this was presented to Team Anna it did not agree and sent its own resolution which said -- "The House resolves that a Lokpal Bill which will set up an independent Lokpal institution be enacted quickly to effectively deal with the prevailing rampant corruption in the country.
"The House further resolves that such law would cover all levels of government servants. Such law would also provide a framework for setting up of similar Lokayuktas in the states and would also include effective provisions for redressal of grievances which affect the common people in country."
New Delhi: The stand-off between government and Anna Hazare on Friday showed no signs of resolution, with Parliament failing to meet the Gandhian's key demand for a discussion on Jan Lokpal Bill as major political parties sparred on how it should be debated.