Taking note of the swelling support for the Anna Hazare-led campaign for a tougher Jan Lokpal Bill, the UPA government on Friday agreed to issue an order for setting up a committee comprising civil society and elected representatives to draft the law.
The decision was taken after the government brass met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the evening.
Hazare has been on a fast here for the last four days over his demand for a tougher anti-corruption law.
Hazare said he would end his fast at 10 am tomorrow, when the government was expected to issue an order for the formation of the committee.
After day-long talks, the government agreed to the five demands of the activists. Civil society will have equal representation (five members) in the committee, the committee will start working as soon as it is constituted, the government will formally issue a notification regarding its formation, the Bill will be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament and the committee can have a co-chairman nominated by the activists.
But it put its foot down on the demand that the committee be headed by a representative of civil society.
“There is a constitutional mechanism in this country. We can’t do anything that may run the risk of breaching the country’s constitutional framework. How can a law-making process be spearheaded by someone who has no accountability to Parliament?” asked a senior minister.
Throughout the day, one section of the UPA, led by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, was busy negotiating with the activists. Another section was calling up the leaders of various political parties to garner support for the government. The Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janta Dal and the Janata Dal (United) reportedly supported the government. All these parties conveyed to the government that while Hazare’s cause needed to be addressed urgently, his method was not acceptable. “The government can’t allow civil society to run the country,” a senior SP leader told a top UPA manager.
The CPI(M), however, made it clear that it supported Hazare. The BJP leadership requested the UPA managers to schedule an all-party meeting on Sunday morning.
Hazare wrote to Congress President Sonia Gandhi urging her to discuss the draft Bill immediately at the full National Advisory Council.
Meanwhile, the Congress dropped its plan to call an all-party meeting for building a political consensus on smooth functioning of parliamentary democracy in the backdrop of civil society movements. Top sources in the party suggested that as the issue was settled this evening, Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided against such a move.