New Delhi: In a bid to pursue Anna Hazare to end fast, the government has decided to approach him directly, rather than through his associates.
Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is from Anna’s home state of Maharashtra, has met Anna at his protest camp at Ramlila Maidan. This morning, Deshmukh reportedly met with both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has been handling the negotiations with Anna’s aides.
Anna has been fasting for 10 days and doctors are worried about his health. The government wants Anna to consider ending his fast and continue with his protest, if he so desires.
Mukherjee and Law Minister Salman Khursheed are conducting official talks with activists Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal. But the government believes that the trio is more inflexible than Anna.
Last night’s talks between the activists and the ministers ended in disaster. “We are back to Square One,” said a visibly-dejected 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 prime minister 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.