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Lokpal: Cong moots all-party meeting
Published on 19 Jun. 2011 12:52 AM IST
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The Congress party Saturday tried to break the apparent deadlock over the Lokpal bill talks by suggesting an all-party meeting on the issue but its allies in the United Progressive Alliance remained divided over major issues.
While Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said the government was “prima facie” opposed to bringing the post of the prime minister under the ambit of the Lokpal, UPA allies Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supported the government view and the DMK said it was not against the proposal.
“Within the government, we feel prima facie, the prime minister should not be covered (by the ambit of Lokpal),” Sibal said in CNN-IBN’s “Devil’s Advocate” programme.
“But at the same time, we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution,” Sibal added. The Congress core committee Saturday suggested that the government call an all-party meeting to seek views on the proposed Lokpal bill.
The meeting, chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi, felt it would help arrive at a consensus on the issues and defuse the pressure on the government and the party, party sources said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and key ministers, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram, attended the party meeting. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the government for “lack of clarity” towards the anti-graft legislation.
“The government’s view on bringing the prime minister under the bill is still not clear. Kapil Sibal has one view, Home Minister Chidambaram says something else,” BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters. The Communist Party of India (CPI) criticised the government for not consulting the political parties on the Lokpal bill issue earlier, and said the party will express its views only in parliament.
“This is no way to consult us,” CPI secretary D. Raja said, referring to the proposal for an all-party meet.
Two UPA allies remained divided on the issue of including the prime minister in the ambit of the bill. NCP spokesman D.P. Tripathi said his party did not want the prime minister to be under the purview of the Lokpal.
“The dignity of the prime minister’s Office has to be preserved. He deals with so many confidential matters of the state relating to intelligence and external affairs,” Tripathi told IANS Saturday.
He said bringing the prime minister in the ambit of the bill will amount to “weakening the state apparatus”.
However, DMK spokesperson T.K.S. Elangovan said his party was not opposed to the prime minister being brought within the purview of the Lokpal.
Sibal, a member of the bill drafting panel, however, clarified that the government will only decide on the issue after the draft bill goes to the cabinet.
Manmohan Singh had said earlier that he was “open” to the idea of bringing the post under the Lokpal.
Sibal said it was not the question of “an individual, Manmohan Singh, but it’s about an institution”.
He, however, stressed that “there will be no two drafts, though there may be areas of disagreement,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prashant Bhushan, a civil society member in the committee, said the Team Hazare favoured a special investigative agency to probe the complaints against the prime minister as all the current agencies are under him.
The 10-member drafting committee was formed after Hazare in April launched a mass movement against corruption in high places through a hunger strike at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
The drafting committee is due to submit its report by June 30.

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