Anna Hazare, Team to Meet Sonia Gandhi Today

BeyondHeadlines Staff Reporter

New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare and other representatives of the civil society will meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi here today to seek her support on the Jan Lokpal Bill.

The civil society activists will meet the UPA chairperson at her 10, Janpath residence at around 4.30 pm. It was earlier scheduled for June 30, but was cancelled.

The meeting comes a day after Hazare and his civil society activists’ team met senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders yesterday ahead of the all-party meeting scheduled on July 3 to discuss the draft anti-graft Lokpal Bill.

The civil society members met BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to garner support for their version of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

In an endeavour to build a consensus on the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by the civil society activists, Hazare met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar earlier on Thursday.

Yon Friday, the Congress said it was opposed to moves aimed at bringing the prime minister and higher judiciary under the ambit of the proposed Lokpal. The Prime Minister, the party said, could be brought under the Lokpal’s purview once he demits office.

The BJP kept its cards close to its chest though it was learnt to have indicated to Team Anna, which came calling at the BJP headquarters, that it was not in favour of including the conduct of MPs inside Parliament and the higher judiciary under the Lokpal.

After this meeting, the BJP top brass met separately to deliberate on the issues raised by Anna and his team. Sources said that while the party had not made up its mind on the key issue of including the PM under the Lokpal’s ambit, many senior leaders were of the view that the party should not deviate from its original stance of including the PM, though with some safeguards.

There is also a strong view in the BJP against attending the all-party meeting called on July 3 by the government to ascertain the views of different parties on contentious issues regarding the proposed Lokpal Bill.

The Congress today gave up its ambivalence to spell out its stance. Party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “Our stand is very clear, though it is not a conclusive stand and is subject to decisions taken in the Cabinet and, most importantly, to the collective will of Parliament. We are of the view that the two institutions of Prime Minister and Judiciary should not be brought under the Lokpal’s ambit.”

“If the Prime Minister is brought under Lokpal, it would lead to inherent instability in democratic and Parliamentary governance. It is not about an individual but an institution. We have to think about the stability of the institution,” Singhvi said.

On Wednesday, Hazare said that he would try to persuade Sonia Gandhi to support the inclusion of the Prime Minister under Lokpal. “If the prime minister is saying so, what is the problem?” he had said, referring to Manmohan Singh’s remarks to newspaper editors that he would have “no hesitation” in bringing himself under the Lokpal’s purview.

Meanwhile, Congress party General Secretary Digvijaya Singh said that the Congress president’s meeting with Hazare on Saturday would be a mere “formality.”

“The Congress party has given them the space which they wanted by drafting them in the drafting committee. Now they should leave it to Parliament, which is accountable to the people of this country. I would not give it (Saturday’s meeting) a lot of significance. It is a formality. But I am happy that Hazare is coming to meet Soniaji. Some sense will prevail,” Singh said.

The final meeting between the government and civil society representatives on the Lokpal Bill ended here on June 21 with differences continuing to persist on six issues including bringing the post of the Prime Minister under the purview of Lokpal.

Two sets of drafts- one by the government and the other by the civil society representatives would now be circulated amongst political parties and then would be forwarded to the cabinet for the final drafting of the bill.


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