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Team Anna, government engage in talks over Lokpal

Last updated on: August 24, 2011 15:09 IST

Pranab Mukherjee to go over Team Anna's fresh draft

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Hectic efforts to break the deadlock over Lokpal were on for the second day on Wednesday as Team Anna presented a fresh draft for consideration by the government.

Even as both sides have differences on three contentious issues, Team Anna submitted a draft that will be taken to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the chief government negotiator, sources said.

After the 90-minute meeting, both sides maintained that the discussions were good but declined to go into specifics of the deliberations.

Three members of Team Anna -- Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan -- held talks with Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who was accompanied by East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit and Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's close aide Pawan Khera.

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Image: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
Photographs: Reuters
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Team Anna, govt negotiators to meet after all-party meet

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"It was a very good meeting but there is nothing concrete," Khurshid said. "There is no resolution as of now. Talks are continuing. There will be further discussions," Bhushan said.

Team Anna members will meet government negotiators soon after the all-party meeting scheduled on Wednesday afternoon.

The law minister said the government was carrying out an exercise to find some method by which Hazare's fast could be brought to an end and then proceed to find solutions to each of issues of divergence.

Asked if the government and civil society members had reached any agreement after talks on Tuesday night, he said, "That will be going too far. Whatever agreement we had was done during the nine meetings we had. We are looking at the implications of what we have put in, what they wanted and have desired and why those implications have become so rigid that we have reached a point that Anna Hazareji is fasting."

The law minister said the government was not yet in any position to say that it has reached agreement on any issue.

"The problem is the modality of agreement and discussion rather than what we agree on. We know that what they are looking for and they know for three months where our hesitation is and what our compulsions are. Whether they are political compulsions or the constitutional compulsions and we have let them know about them," he said.

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Image: Law Minister Salman Khurshid

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'Working on the modalities to take the issue forward'

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On whether the government was planning to give a written assurance to the civil society, he said, "We have not reached that stage yet. At present we are working on the modalities to take the issue forward. Those efforts are not yet very successful. Our priority is Annaji's health at the moment."

Citing examples of problem areas in the bill, he said the civil society members want the MPs to be accountable to the Lokpal.

"We are saying MPs are accountable only to the constitutional immunities. We can't remove the constitutional immunities in a bill called the Lokpal Bill. They will have to be a constitutional amendment bill," he said. Khurshid said that nobody has been authorised to talk about a constitutional amendment bill.

"It will have a lot of implications. MPs will have to decide honestly and genuinely whether immunity is necessary for them for free expression of views in Parliament. Now if that is necessary we can't take it away," he said.

Asked whether there would be any climb-down by the government on the issue, he said, "I don't like the word climb-down at all. We have to find convergence -- that is my belief. This is my personal view that convergence is entirely possible but convergence in the very instant you start talking does not happen."

He said the government has not asked anybody to talk on the issue and it is only "those who have relations or can take constructive initiatives. But government has not asked anybody."

"The prime minister has written a letter. When a response to that letter comes, the prime minister will decide what is to be done," he said.

Asked about the all-party meeting on Wednesday, he said, "I don't predict anything but it is our sincere effort to find a common position in Parliament."

"If we can't have a common position with Anna Hazare and his friends, we should have a common position with all our colleagues in Parliament. That is our fundamental duty and we are trying to achieve it," the law minister said.


Image: Anna Hazare speaks to doctors as they examine him at Ramlila Ground in New Delhi
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
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