Following the complete breakdown of negotiations on the lokpal bill, Anna Hazare announced on Thursday that he would resume his indefinite fast from August 16 and he was prepared to die for the cause. Although Hazare said the government had gone back on its promise, three ministers of the joint drafting panel made it clear that creation of a structure “parallel to the government” could not be allowed.
Both sides used strong language, but none were willing to call off the final meeting scheduled for June 20. Law minister M Veerappa Moily, however, said there was no question of sending two drafts of the bill to the cabinet. If the panel members fail to iron out differences in the June 20 meeting, their respective views would be sent to the cabinet, he said.
Home minister P Chidambaram said the government would finalise the draft by June 30 “with or without the civil society members”. He also hinted that the Prime Minister’s post might be brought under the lokpal ambit with clearly carved out exceptions. But no decision had yet been taken on this. In a dig at Hazare, Chidambaram said, “I don’t think fasting is the way to draft a bill anywhere in the world.”
Shortly before the group of ministers on media addressed a press conference, Hazare launched a strong attack on the government. “Since the government has no intention of bringing an effective lokpal bill and it backtracked yesterday on the promise to consider our suggestions, I have decided to resume my fast from August 16.” He said, referring to the police action on Baba Ramdev at Ramlila ground on June 6: “It can happen with us also, but I do not care since I am prepared for lathis, bullets and jail.”
The no-holds-barred fight touched a new low on Thursday, with both sides presenting different versions of what transpired in the joint meetings.
Hazare’s team member Arvind Kejriwal said the government representatives merely announced their decisions on the civil society activists’ arguments.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal strongly countered, giving several examples of having elaborate discussions on major issues of divergence. “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,” Sibal said.
Kejriwal said, “We will go on Monday (June 20) and present our final draft of the bill to the government. In case the ministers are willing, we would be ready to discuss the issues on which we disagree.” From the government side, minorities affairs minister Salman Khursheed said the ministers in the joint panel had shown utmost restraint despite the “wrong statements” from the other side. “We have continued and will continue our work despite provocations and diversions.”