Congress calls for flexibility on Lokpal issue (Lead)

August 22nd, 2011 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) Caught in a bind over Anna Hazare’s fast, which continued for the seventh day Monday, the Congress indicated its willingness to take the civil society’s concerns on board over the Lokpal bill but made it clear that it will be virtually impossible to pass the bill in the ongoing monsoon session of parliament.

The Congress and the government appear to have stepped up their efforts for a solution amid concerns about the health condition of the fasting social activist who has been attracting huge crowds over the extended weekend at the venue of his fast at Ramlila ground.

Congress leaders expressed the party’s willingness for a debate on the Lokpal bill and the government continued to explore the possibility of solution through back-channel talks.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a function in Kolkata that the government was open for debate on the Lokpal bill but corruption could be tackled only by action on multiple fronts and not by enacting a single piece of law.

“There is no single solution. We need to act on multiple fronts,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said everything cannot be decided on the basis of deadlines.

Singhvi, who heads the standing committee on personnel, public grievances and law and justice that is looking into the Lokpal bill, said there is need for restraint and discipline from all sides.

“Everything cannot be decided on the basis of deadlines. It is vital that every side shows restraint and discipline. It is important to show flexibility by moving away from timelines,” Singhvi said, in an apparent reference to the ultimatum of Hazare that their version of the bill should be passed by parliament by Aug 30.

He also said that the standing committee is not likely to seek extension to finalise its recommendation on the bill and will try to give its report “within three months” before the winter session of parliament.

Singhvi said all suggestions can be put before the standing committee so that a comprehensive bill is finalised.

“I fail to understand why a reasonable solution cannot be found,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Law Minister Salman Khurshid expressed hope that a solution will be found to the situation created by the fast.

“A solution can be found. Everybody should make an earnest effort to find a solution,” he said.

Khurshid emphasised the primacy of parliamentary process in finalising the bill and said “one-two lakh people” coming together was important but not something that leads the nation.

“What crores of people in the country want can come out through elections,” he said.

Congress sources said the government was continuing its back-channel efforts to find a solution.

They said the back-channel interlocutors include U.C. Sarangi, a senior officer in the Maharashtra government, Bhayyuji Maharaj, a Hazare associate and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

With people rallying behind Hazare in the capital in large numbers, Congress leaders have also been increasingly venting their disquiet about the way his agitation has been handled by the government.

Party leader Anil Shastri tweeted Monday that the government underestimated the magnitude of the anti-corruption movement.

“Anna’s movement against corruption was underestimated by government. It is time that it entered into dialogue with him to end his fast,” said Shastri, who is a special invitee to the Congress Working Committee.

Apart from Shastri, some other party leaders, including Sandeep Dikshit and Madhu Goud Yaskhi, have expressed reservations over the decision to arrest Hazare at the start of his fast Aug 16 and his being sent to the Tihar jail. Hazare was released from the jail Aug 16 evening.

Yaskhi told IANS that the decision to arrest Hazare was a mistake and the move to keep him in the Tihar Jail was “a big blunder”.

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