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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lokpal Bill crisis: Govt talks to Anna Hazare

Govt talks to Anna Hazare directly, shift in strategy.

Govt talks to Anna HazareAs part of its efforts to convince anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare to end his hunger strike, the government is trying to approach him directly, rather than through his associates.

So senior leaders from Anna's home state of Maharashtra are in touch with Anna himself. Among those engaging with the 74-year-old Gandhian are Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Anna has been fasting for ten days and doctors are worried about his health.

Two ministers - Pranab Mukherjee and Salman Khursheed - are conducting the official talks with activists Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal. But the government believes that the trio is more inflexible than Anna. So it's also routing compromise formulae to Anna.

Last night's talks between the activists and the ministers ended in disaster. "We are back to Square One," said a visibly-dejected Mr Bhushan. The ministers refuted that version of events, arguing that a new round of talks today will continue the efforts to find a solution.

The exit route from this emergency may have been provided by the Prime Minister in Parliament this morning. Anna has vowed not to end his fast till his activists' Jan Lokpal Bill is discussed in Parliament. The PM said that all existing versions of the Bill including the government's can be debated by the House; the best points of each can then be sent to a committee for detailed analysis and feedback.

The Lokpal is a new agency that will be empowered to fight corruption among public servants. How it should be selected and who it should apply to are among the points of dispute between Team Anna and the government. However, a compromise has been reached on all but two points. The government has still not agreed to the activists' demand that the Lokpal should be allowed to investigate junior bureaucrats; it has also refused to create a parallel Lokpal in each state.

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