New Delhi: At a time when the UPA is on backfoot over Gandhian Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast, pressing for a stronger Lokpal Bill, government has hinted that it was ready to talk to Team Anna to find a midway, if approached formally.
The indications came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired an hour-long meeting of Congress core group late last night, to take stock of the situation arising out of Anna’s fast at Ramlila Ground.
The meeting was attended by senior Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and AK Antony. Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel was also present in the meeting.
“The government has no problem in holding talks with the civil society group led by Hazare if they express readiness,” highly placed sources in the Congress party informed.
A number of Congress leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity said the government should re-engage Team Anna in talks.
The meeting came against the backdrop of Hazare setting a deadline of August 30 for the government to get the Janlokpal Bill passed in Parliament, failing which he decided to continue his fast “till his last breath”.
Meanwhile, Congress launched damage control exercise over handling of Anna issue with East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit stating that the Gandhian should not have been arrested and adverse comments made against him could have been avoided.
The civil society led by Anna Hazare have been demanding inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament under the ambit of Lokpal.
The Hazare team is also demanding a strong public grievance redressal mechanism, lokayuktas at state-level and independent selection, funding and removal mechanism to ensure autonomy of function.
The Lokpal Bill cleared by the cabinet seeks to keep the office of the Prime Minister outside the purview of the ombudsman during his term in office and also exclude higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament.
The Lokpal, consisting of chairperson and eight members, half of them judicial, will have its own prosecution and investigation wing with officers and staff necessary to carry out its functions.