The all-party meeting on the Lokpal bill ended Sunday evening with
no major breakthrough on the contentious issue of including prime
minister within the ambit of the proposed anti-graft legislation
and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) voicing its
differences on the government's version of the legislation.
At the end of the three-hour meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh's official residence, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said they had
differences on the government's draft bill.
"We have differences over the procedure for selecting the Lokpal,
its area of jurisdiction and the qualifications of person for the
post," Sushma Swaraj, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Lok
Sabha, said afer the meeting.
She said that the bill should be introduced in the monsoon session
of parliament (beginning August 1) and sent to the standing
committee "so that political parties, state governments and
organisations can give their reactions and suggestions".
"It can be passed after incorporating suggestions of the standing
committee," she said.
She said that BJP will articulate its differences with the
government on the bill in parliament.
Manmohan Singh set the tone for the meeting with his opening
remarks, reaffirming his government's commitment to a Lokpal bill
which provides for a strong institutional arrangement for tackling
corruption in high places. He said the legislation will be brought
in the monsoon session of parliament.
He said that the institutional arrangement for the Lokpal should
enjoy support of as large a section of people as possible and it
has to work in harmony with other institutions and laws.
Besides the prime minister, the all-party meeting was attended by
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,
Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily,
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun
Jaitley and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader
Sitaram Yechury, among others.
Leaders of Janata Dal-United, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi
Party, DMK, AIADMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party
also attended the meeting.
The meeting came in the backdrop of efforts by the government to
evolve a consensus on the anti-graft bill following meetings of a
joint drafting committee comprising civil society members and
The drafting committee, which ended its deliberations last month,
saw differences between civil society representatives and the
government on several issues relating to the bill, including
inclusion of the prime minister and the judiciary in its ambit.
Two drafts of the proposed bill have thus emerged.
Civil society activists led by Anna Hazare held a series of
meetings with political parties ahead of all-party meeting to seek
support for their version of the bill.
Hazare has declared he will go on a fast from Aug 16 if a
comprehensive legislation is not brought before parliament.
Political parties remain divided over including the prime minister
and the higher judiciary within the ambit of the proposed
While the Congress has favoured exclding the prime minister and
the higher judiciary from the ambit of the proposed bill, there
appears to be no unanimity in the ruling United Progressive
Alliance (UPA) on this.
The DMK, an ally of the Congress, has said it has no reservation
in bringing the prime minister within the ambit of the Lokpal
while the Nationalist Congress Party said that the prime minister,
the higher judiciary and the conduct of MPs in parliament should
be kept out of the purview of the Lokpal.
The CPI-M Saturday said the prime minister should be covered by
the Lokpal with adequate safeguards but the judiciary should be
kept out of its ambit.