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Don't threaten us, government tells Hazare

Last updated on: June 16, 2011 21:01 IST

Anna Hazare on Thursday threatened to go on hunger strike from August 16 alleging "backtracking" on Lokpal bill but the government refused to yield, saying it cannot allow creation of a "parallel" structure.

Amidst hardening of positions by both sides, government made it clear that it would come out with a "strong and sound" draft of Lokpal bill by June 30 irrespective of whether civil society activists cooperate.

A day after talks in the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill got deadlocked, Hazare accused the government of having no intention to enact a strong anti-corruption law and that it had "backtracked" on the promises that it will agree to all the suggestions forwarded by the civil society members.

Hazare, whose hunger strike in April had evoked nationwide response which rattled the government, said he will undertake an indefinite fast from August 16 if a diluted legislation is brought.

Shortly after press conference by Hazare and his team, ministers in the drafting committee P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid hit back at the civil society, making it clear that the government will not succumb to threats.

"You cannot threaten and negotiate at the same time...This is not the way forward...The government is not going to get diverted by abuses and slander," Human Resources and Dveleopment Minister Sibal said at a press conference.

Home Minister Chidambaram said, "I don't think anywhere in the world, fasting is the way to draft a bill."

He asserted that many of the demands of the Hazare team cannot be accepted because a structure parallel to the government cannot be allowed.

"It is wrong to say that the ministers were only interested in taking decisions and are not willing to discuss the issues," Sibal told mediapersons

"Former chief Justice of India A S Anand and noted constitutional expert Fali Nariman who are also members of the civil society do not agree with the Lokpal bill as conceived by Anna Hazare and his associates," Sibal claimed.

He explained that at not point of time he had suggested two different versions of the Lokpal bill that will be sent to the Cabinet for consideration. He denied that there was any bitterness in the group of ministers on the Lokpal Bill drafting committee. "If the Anna Hazare group felt otherwise it was their problem," Sibal said.

Meanwhile, P Chidambaram said that there has been agreement on some key issues including the 11 member Lokpal with an independent investigating agency. "We have agreed to remove sanction to prosecute corrupt government official," he said.

"The investigating arm will not be a new born baby and we will have to wait till it grows up. The officers from various departments would be drawn to form the investigating arm. But the only trouble is that they consider the entire government staff as corrupt and this is what HRD minister was talking about," Chidambaram said.

Asked if the government would grant permission to organise hunger strikes after August 15 in Delhi, Chidabamram said that it was a difficult question to answer at this stage.

Union Minister Salman Khursheed also took a dig at Team Anna, who had described the drafting of bill as a 'Joke'pal bill.

"Some people understand a joke after many hours. What was a serious business has now become a joke today as the reality has just sunk in," he said.

With inputs from PTI

Onkar Singh in New Delhi