Lokpal: Team Anna, Govt battle on new issues
New areas of disagreement on removal of Lokpal, appointment of Lokpal selection committee emerged.
New Delhi: Differences between Team Anna and the government widened further on Monday as both sides stuck to their stand on key issues, including on bringing the prime minister within the ambit of a strong Lokpal Bill, even as new areas of disagreement emerged.
However, both sides for the first time agreed that the atmosphere of their seventh meeting was "non-acrimonious" and "cordial".
Emerging from the three-hour, penultimate meeting at North Block, Gandhian Anna Hazare described it as "good" and said the talks are "finally" back on track.
While Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal described the meeting as a "major step forward", the civil society members were less happy, saying that "two new issues of disagreement have emerged" and the key issues are yet to be resolved.
Both sides also gave different versions of their meeting. While Sibal claimed "80-85 percent of the clauses" in the bill were agreed on, civil society members denied it saying there was agreement on only "60 percent".
The two new areas of disagreement are on removal of the Lokpal and appointment of the Lokpal selection committee.
The two sides will be meeting for the last time on Tuesday - to exchange their versions on the "contentious issues" on the Lokpal Bill, which would then be submitted to the cabinet for a final call.
Speaking to reporters, Sibal said there were "full-fledged discussions on a range of issues. The atmosphere was non-acrimonious, it was friendly…there was a broad consensus”.
"I think it`s a major step forward. Both sides feel that we should move towards a consensus, and where there are significant areas of divergence and disagreements to formulate a draft in which those areas will be spelt out," he said.
Sibal also said the government will be meeting and discussing the key issues with political parties. The all-party meet - the dates will be announced later - will be held in July.
He said that the bill will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament beginning mid-July.
Describing Monday`s meeting as "cordial", civil society members said "differences persisted" between the two sides.
The two sides have been locked in a war of words in recent weeks over various issues, including on whether or not to bring the prime minister and the higher judiciary within the ambit of the Lokpal. The issue was not taken up in Monday`s meeting.
The meeting started 11 am and went on till 2 pm.
Giving more details, Arvind Kejriwal, also a civil society member of the drafting committee, said they had "proposed a broad-based Lokpal committee consisting of non-political and independent people in the draft of the proposed bill while the government`s version has mainly political people in the appointment committee".
"There were a lot of disagreements between both the sides, but all of them were discussed in an elaborate way," Kejriwal said.
Besides Hazare, Prashant Bhushan and Kejriwal, other civil society activists on the panel that was set up in April to frame a comprehensive Lokpal bill to fight corruption in high places are Karnataka Lok Ayukta N Santosh Hegde and Supreme Court advocate Shanti Bhushan.
Hedge could not attend the meeting due to a prior commitment but would be attending Tuesday`s meeting.
The government is represented by cabinet ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram, M Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid and Sibal.
When asked about the Lokpal bill, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said: "Constitutionally, the legislature should have the right of drafting the bill."