Talks to end Anna Hazare’s fast inconclusive!

NEW DELHI: Talks between the Indian government and civil society leaders remained inconclusive Thursday due to differences over the procedure for setting up a committee to draft anti-corruption Lokpal bill, union minister Kapil Sibal said here.

Sibal, the government’s representative, and activists Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal met twice during the day to end the indefinite fast by social activist Anna Hazare.

The civil society leaders have demanded that the joint drafting committee be legally notified and be chaired by Hazare.

"On these two issues, there is no agreement so far. So, we need more time and we will be meeting tomorrow (Friday) to evolve a procedure through which we can move forward," Sibal told reporters after meeting Agnivesh and Kejriwal for the second time.

The two rounds of talks were held at Sibal’s residence here.

Political circles feel by scheduling the next talks for Friday, the government has bought time for consultations at the higher level, including with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The first round of talks held in the morning was described by Sibal as "very constructive".

Earlier, Kejriwal told reporters that the government should issue an official notification regarding the formation of a joint committee of ministers and rights activists to draft the Lokpal bill – intended to form a watchdog against corruption among ministers and top government functionaries.

Kejriwal said that a time frame should be announced for the consultations.

According to sources, the government has indicated that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee could head the joint committee.

But Hazare announced Thursday morning at Jantar Mantar – where he is on a fast since Tuesday – that a former chief justice of India should head the panel.

While Hazare made the suggestion, hundreds of people gathered in his support, suggested that Hazare himself should head the committee, Kejriwal said.

On the time frame, the government told the activists that many of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Lokpal bill were busy with the upcoming assembly elections, sources told .

To this, the activists replied that the government should go ahead with the ministers available.

The GOM, headed by Mukherjee, comprises Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Sibal. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who was also a member, quit Wednesday after Hazare said some of the GOM members had "shady background".

Meanwhile, Hazare’s fast received a groundswell of support from all sections of society in Delhi and others places, reports said.(IANS)

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