`Nation could have been spared trauma of Anna stir`

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal was the main negotiator for the government in its talks with the leaders of the anti-corruption movement.

New Delhi: HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, a key government negotiator on the Lokpal issue, on Thursday said the nation could have been spared the "trauma inflicted by Anna Hazare`s agitation" if his team had given up some of its demands earlier.

Sibal was the main negotiator for the government in its talks with the leaders of the anti-corruption movement led by the Gandhian but had to take a back seat following allegations of mishandling of the movement.

"The nation could have been spared the trauma inflicted by the Lokpal agitation had Team Anna given up some of its demands earlier," Sibal said in an interview to Rajya Sabha TV.

Breaking his silence after facing severe criticism for alleged mishandling of the anti-corruption movement, he said, "There was no need for any abuse or conflict."

"Team Anna had dropped its demand that judiciary, entire bureaucracy and the conduct of MPs inside the House should come under the proposed Lokpal," Sibal said, adding "they also softened the stand that state anti-corruption bodies should be covered under the legislation during the course of the negotiations."

Sibal said from the entire Lokpal episode he had learnt the lesson that he would not become the spokesperson of any group in future.

On the government`s stand on the issue, he said it maintained a dignified silence despite being called cheats, liars and betrayers by the Team Anna.

"We never retaliated," he said.

Dismissing charges of being arrogant, he said, "Arrogance is far removed from me. You can`t call me arrogant when I am stating what I believe in with conviction."

On Opposition leader Arun Jaitley, he said "BJP leader is not a rival but a collaborator."

Jaitley had said in the Rajya Sabha that the government`s reliance on too many lawyers to deal with the Anna agitation was one of the reasons for its failure.

Reacting to this, Sibal said the same thing can be said about the Opposition. "What is Arun Jaitley?" he asked.

Clarifying his stand on the policy governing student loans to IIT students, which was announced on Wednesday, the Telecom Minister said students will not have to repay loans till they get employment even if it takes 10 years.

Accusing the media of being discriminatory in its approach, he said it is focusing only on the negatives and completely ignoring the initiatives of the government.

He stood by his earlier statement on the 2G spectrum scam that since there was no auction or indexing which was not the policy of the government there was zero loss to the government.

On CBI`s estimate of a Rs 22,000 crore loss, he said it must be basing the estimation on indexing.

Sibal played down the results of the "referendum" conducted by Team Anna in his constituency Chandni Chowk, saying the next Lok Sabha elections in "2014 will answer them”.


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