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‘Centre holding dialogue with Team Anna’

The government on Sunday said that it has started a dialogue process with Team Anna at various levels to end the impasse over the contentious Lokpal Bill.



Zeenews Bureau

Dehradun/New Delhi: The government on Sunday said that it has started a dialogue
process with Team Anna at various levels to end the impasse over the contentious Lokpal Bill.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat said, "The dialogue process has already been initiated at various levels through well-wishers. This dialogue is at
various levels which is not parallel to each other but
complimentary to each other," Rawat said.

The minister expressed hope that a solution would emerge
shortly.

Rawat also appealed to Hazare to understand the
"constitutional limits" of the government.

He said the Lokpal Bill was before the Standing Committee
of Parliament and it was very difficult to fix a time-frame for
its clearance.

In this regard, he said suggestions can be put before the
Committee in order to incorporate them into the Bill.

Rawat cited the example of RTI Bill where suggestions were
incorporated in the Standing Committee stage itself.

"The final objective of Anna and the Centre is the same as
the main fight is against corruption. When the objective is
the same, there should be no differences also," he emphasised.

Rawat’s remarks came in the wake of a senior Maharashtra government official meeting the Gandhian at the capital’s Ramlila Maidan twice, fuelling speculation about back-room negotiations to resolve the differences between Centre and Anna Hazare.

Hazare’s team has however ruled out any compromise on its demand for bringing Prime Minister and higher judiciary within Lokpal`s ambit.

Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary Umesh Chandra Sarangi first visited Hazare on Saturday night and then again today at the Ramlila Maidan, where he is on an indefinite hunger strike demanding a strong Lokpal. Team Anna described last night’s meeting as "personal" while maintaining that "no compromise formula" was discussed.

Sarangi shares a good rapport with Hazare, having handled
several such situations in the state when the anti-corruption
crusader had gone on fast or threatened to do so.

In the backdrop of speculation that Centre might use
Maharashtra leaders to reach out to Hazare, Union Power
Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today said he was willing to be a
mediator and talk to Hazare if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
wanted him to do so.

There was no immediate word from Union Minister Vilasrao
Deshmukh in the matter but another Union Minister and NCP
chief Sharad Pawar yesterday denied that he was playing any
role.

Congress sources said that NGOs in Maharashtra would also
be roped in to reach out to Hazare.

Attended by Hazare, Saturday night meeting decided not to climb down from its position on bringing the Prime Minister and higher judiciary in Lokpal`s ambit but kept its door open for negotiations if the government "earns their trust" by withdrawing the Lokpal Bill from Parliament.

Justice Santosh Hegde, former Karnataka Lokayukta and a close associate of Hazare, who proposed that the team could think of giving up their demands on Prime Minister and higher judiciary provided other key demands are met, also attended last night’s meeting, sources said.

After the Core Committee meeting, Hegde held another round of discussions with key members of Team Anna. The sources said the issue with regard to the Prime Minister and judiciary was also discussed at the meeting but the activists finally decided against lowering their bar.

"We are open for talks. In order to open a door for dialogue, the government has to create an atmosphere. They have to create an atmosphere of trust by withdrawing the government bill from Parliament and introduce Jan Lokpal Bill. We will not budge from our stand. This is the least they should do to earn our trust," Swami Agnivesh, a Core Committee member, said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s remarks that there was "a lot of scope for give and take" and that the government was open to "discussion and dialogue" was being seen as a positive move from the government side, the sources said.

The meeting was attended by Hazare`s close associates Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Shanti Bhushan and Manish Sisodia. Activist Medha Patkar was also present.

Hazare had on Friday raised the political stakes by giving a deadline to the government to pass the Jan Lokpal bill by August 30 failing which he would continue his fast "till my last breath".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking on the issue yesterday, had affirmed that there was "a lot of scope for give and take" and that the government was open to "discussion and dialogue".

(With PTI inputs)

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