PM calls all-party meeting on Friday over Lokpal

New Delhi: In a fresh bid to end the stalemate over Lokpal Bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called an all-party meeting on Friday aimed at evolving consensus on the crucial legislation to which 97 amendments have been moved by Opposition members in Rajya Sabha. The meeting will be held at Singh`s residence at noon on Friday. Parliament will not meet on that day due to festivals like Gudi Padwa and Ugadi.

Highly-placed sources told PTI that the Opposition parties have moved 97 Amendments to the Bill in Rajya Sabha some of which were contentious and the meeting would discuss ways to evolve consesus on them. Some of the amendments, the sources said, are for bringing the Prime Minister`s Office entirely under Lokpal, seeks exclusion of Lokayukta from the bill, abolition of minority quota and inclusion of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha as one of the members of the selection committee.

"The meeting would discuss ways to evolve consensus. The Government is committed to bringing the Lokpal Bill," the sources said. Government is keen on passing the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha even as the opposition and social activist Anna Hazare have renewed pressure on the issue. Hazare has said he will go on a fast from March 25 if the Bill is not passed while BJP has said in the Upper House that the debate and amendments to the Bill should be taken up from where they were left on the night of December 29 when the House was adjourned amid a din.

Lok Sabha has already passed the Bill. Under the renewed effort, government is planning to drop the clauses in the Lokpal Bill pertaining to setting up of Lokayuktas in states, a provision that faced stiff opposition from friends and foes alike. A senior minister had said recently that the government was contemplating the move that would help clear the obstacles in the way of its easy passage in Parliament as also dismiss the opposition campaign that Congress was against the measure. The fresh consultation is aimed at ensuring that the anti-graft Bill is passed in the first part of the budget session which ends on March 30.