PM holds consultations with UPA allies on Lokpal



New Delhi: On the eve of the all-party meeting on Lokpal issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday night held consultations with UPA constituents after which a "broad consensus" was reported on the approach to the matter.

RLD leader Ajit Singh, who joined UPA yesterday, was among those who attended the two-hour meeting held at the Prime Minister's residence.

Briefing media persons, Home Minister P Chidambaram said leaders of all parties expressed their views and discussions were "very fruitful" and "very extensive" on the issue.

"Parties discussed the (Parliamentary) Standing Committee report on the Lokpal. The parties discussed the approach for the all-party meeting tomorrow. They will express their views in the meeting tomorrow," he said.

"There is a broad consensus in the UPA-II on the approach to the Lokpal," Chidambaram said.

He expressed the hope that that tomorrow's meeting would be "productive and we can reach conclusions on the amendments to the draft Lokpal bill and bring it before Parliament."

Among those present at the meeting were Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Chairman of the Parliament Standing Committee on Law and Personnel Abhishek Singhvi and Minister of State in PMO V Narayanasamy.

The PM's consultations with allies came amidst intense pressure on the government from political parties to include the Prime Minister, Group C and D employees and the anti-corruption wing of CBI within the purview of the Lokpal Bill.

BJP, the Left and BSP are expected to press these issues in tomorrow's meeting as the Standing Committee has kept these out.

Hours before consultations with UPA allies, the Prime Minister discussed the Bill with Sonia Gandhi and top Congress leaders and ministerial colleagues in the Core Group in the afternoon.

Singhvi also attended that meeting and is understood to have briefed the leaders about the pros and cons of various issues concerning the measure.

Ahead of the meeting, Congress had called upon all the parties within the UPA and outside to sit together and try to evolve a political consensus.

The Lokpal Bill is expected to come up for consideration in the Lok Sabha on December 20, two days ahead of the conclusion of the current session of Parliament, amid the looming threat of hunger strike by Anna Hazare.

PTI