Congress meets to chalk out Lokpal strategy

Senior Congress leaders held a strategy meeting to discuss the statement Pranab Mukherjee is to make in Lok Sabha.

New Delhi: Senior Congress leaders late Friday night held a strategy meeting, chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee - the government`s chief interlocutor with Team Anna, to discuss the statement he is to make in Lok Sabha on Saturday that will set the stage for discussions on aspects of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

"There should be a discussion in both houses. I will have to make a statement in the beginning," Mukherjee told reporters here after the meeting.

"On the basis of that statement, discussions will take place," he said.

The meeting of the Congress strategy group was attended by Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal and V Narayanasamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister`s Office.

"We are repeatedly appealing to Anna Hazare to end his fast. I am repeating that appeal," Mukherjee said on day 11 of Hazare`s anti-graft fast.

Mukherjee, also Leader of the House, will make a suo motu statement on the Lokpal issue in the Lok Sabha 11 am on Saturday immediately after the house assembles for the day.

Discussion will take place under rule 342 that does not require voting. The BJP has given a notice for a discussion under rule 184 in Lok Sabha and rule 167 in Rajya Sabha that entail voting.

Khurshid said all aspects of the Jan Lokpal Bill, including three sticking issues, will be discussed after the statement.

"We hope that the outcome of the proceedings, including all suggestions, will be submitted to the parliamentary standing committee," said Khurshid.

Saying that the government wanted a strong Lokpal Bill, Khurshid said the top priority right now is to persuade Anna Hazare to end his 11-day fast.

In a bid to finalise the government`s strategy to end the impasse, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held consultations with Mukherjee and Vilasrao Deshmukh, Science and Technology Minister and a former chief minister of Maharashtra, who are negotiating with Hazare and his associates.

They are understood to have discussed the contours of the opening statement Mukherjee will make in Parliament in a last-ditch effort to mobilise across-the-party consensus to break the logjam.

The discussions were held after Hazare made it clear in a letter to the prime minister that a mere discussion on the Lokpal issue in parliament will not help and it has to pass a resolution indicating that Lokpal Bill covers three sticky issues.

The hardening of standby Team Anna has reduced chances of an imminent breakthrough.


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