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Posted on 20 August 2011

Country needs strong consensus on Lokpal Bill: PM

Manmohan Singh says, "Government is always open for talks" as it may change the situation

Iftikhar Gilani
New Delhi

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday offered an olive branch of a fresh dialogue to the fasting anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare. He said "country needs strong consensus on Lokpal Bill" and "government is always open for talks" as it may change the situation.

It, however, seems to be just a posturing that the government never shuts the doors for a consensus. On Friday night the Congress core group, chaired by the PM, decided a hands-off policy to handle Team Anna and that it was better to "wait-and-watch" the hardening stance of Hazare and company at the Ramlila Maidan here.

A senior Congress minister too admitted that the government is in no hurry to engage in a dialogue with Team India or change its stand on the contentious demands of the civil society team that were rejected by the Cabinet after due consideration. He also sought to rubbish the group claiming the government has issued an advertisement in newspapers on Saturday seeking public opinion to decide its future course of action.

“The government has nothing to do with the advertisement as it has been issued by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat on behalf of the Standing Committee now examining the Bill. The government will not have any access to the responses until the Committee submits its report to Parliament, possibly in the winter session in November, the minister said.


Anna Hazare moved to Ramlila Maidan after 68-hour stay at Tihar
What Team Anna really wants out of August 16
Reign of the Tin Men

After scoring a victory by asserting its right to protest without the government-clamped conditions, the Team Anna is desperate for talks as it knows the protest fast of the crusader cannot go on forever. It, however, finds nobody from the government giving any space for the dialogue.

"We are ready to talk to the government but there is no communication from their side," Hazare’s close associate Arvind Kejriwal said. Manish Sisodia, a journalist-turned RTI activist managing the media and publicity for the team, asked: "Where should we go to talk and whom should we talk to?"

"The government is in favour of a strong, effective Lokpal Bill which could help us curbing the prevalent corruption in the country," the Prime Minister said while stressing that the process of making the legislation takes time and cannot be rushed.

According to Team Anna, there was nothing new in the Prime Minister asserting that his government wants a strong Lokpal to curb corruption when cornered by the media on the sidelines of the full-bench Planning Commission meeting here on Saturday to finalise the 12th Five-Year Plan that sets the target of 9 per cent economic growth. He has vowed the government's commitment time and again for fighting corruption.

"There is a dynamics in the legislative process and it takes time for a bill to be passed," said the PM without referring to Hazare setting the deadline of August 30 for passing the Bill or else he does not end the fast that entered the fifth day on Saturday.

Iftikhar Gilani is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com
[email protected]

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Posted on 20 August 2011



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