Govt, Team Anna, Oppn willing for a dialogue

Kolkata: Close on the heels of Anna Hazare threatening another round of agitation on Lokpal issue, the government, Team Anna and opposition parties BJP and CPI(M) said on Saturday they are willing for an open dialogue on a strong anti-corruption Bill.

"The doors are open and we have never shut it. Rather, it was Team Anna which had slammed the door on us," Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid said at a debate here on Saturday the motion of which was `In the demand for a strong Lokpal, does the end justify the means`

He said that what was required was the right language and the right means for a dialogue. Team Anna members Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal said they were also ready for a dialogue with the government and others and contended the draft Lokpal Bill lying with the Standing Committee was a "watered down version".

It was not the one which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had committed on three issues like Citizen`s Charter, roping in the lower bureacracy within its ambit and creation of Lokayuktas, Bedi and Kejriwal said.

Bedi alleged draft Bill did not propose to give autonomy to CBI which made it weaker. Reacting to this, Khurshid said "we will not present a strong Lokpal Bill but a stronger one than they have imagined.

"Issues like Citizens Charter and Lokayuktas will be to the satisfaction to the people," he said.
Kejriwal said that what the government was saying was a `strong` Lokpal Bill was the one where CBI and the judiciary were kept out and along with 95 per cent of the employees working in the government system.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party was also keen along with others for a dialogue on a strong Lokpal Bill, a view also shared by CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury and RTI activist Shekhar Singh.

Prasad said that in all the several drafts on Lokpal Bill made so far in the last 42 years, each one of them got stuck when the issue of bringing the Prime Minister under its purview came up.

Unless the Prime Minister was brought under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, it would not be an effective one, he said. "Our party from day one wanted the PM to come under Lokpal," he said. Yechury said the country needed a strong Lokpal and judicial accountability along with electoral reforms.

Singh said although there could be differences among civil liberties group, the country really needed a strong Lokpal Bill. The motion was put to vote but the House was equally divided.