New Delhi: 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
The Congress core committee Saturday suggested that the government
call an all-party meeting to seek views on the proposed Lokpal
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
"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
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
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.