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Back To Square One, Says Team Anna, No Breakthrough In Talks

PTI 24 Aug 2011, 23:49:12 IST

New Delhi, Aug 24: The stand-off between government and Anna Hazare reached a flashpoint tonight with the talks yielding no breakthrough and the Gandhian's team expressed “disappointment” with the government's “change in attitude”. 

“There is a difference of day and night between yesterday and today. There has been a change of attitude. The kind of concern they were expressing yesterday was not visible today.  It is a totally retrograde,” Team Anna member Kiran Bedi told reporters after a meeting with government negotiators. 

Accusing the government of involving them only “for the sake of meetings”, Bedi said they have gone back to the drafting stage.

“We are back to the position where we were two days ago when no meetings had taken place. The agreement on procedure which appeared reached yesterday has been withdrawn by them,” Arvind Kejriwal, another Team Anna member, said. 

Expressing disappointment with the meeting, lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that the discussions will have to be started “once again virtually from scratch”. 

“Unfortunately, we are back to square one. While yesterday there seem to be some progress, today after the meetings of CCPA, Congress Core Group and all party meeting, we seem to be back to square one,” he said.

The meeting tonight was the fourth Team Anna members had with government negotiators after the informal deliberation between them and Law Minister Salman Khurshid yesterday.

As the meeting drew close and it was clear that there was no immediate agreement, Kejriwal claimed that they asked Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and Salman Khurshid whether the government was contemplating any police action against Hazare. 

“We also asked him whether they are going to take any police action against them. They got infuriated and told us not to raise such issues. Then they said they were not competent to answer this question,” he said. 

Kejriwal said they also sought an answer from the ministers on what should they tell Hazare as he has maintained that he will not end his fast till his demands were met. 

“When we asked what we should tell Anna Hazare as he will not end his fast, they said ‘let him do whatever he does. If Anna wants to continue with his fast, it is his wish',” he said.

He said the government clearly told them that Jan Lokpal Bill cannot be introduced in Parliament and a new bill has to be drafted and accused the government of having pulled back from the consensus arrived at yesterday's meeting. 

Bhushan said that they had last night raised two demands—on procedure and timeline and the nature of the bill which has to be placed in Parliament.

“We told them that the bill should incorporate provisions of Jan Lokpal bill and should be passed in this session.  Yesterday it appeared that the government or rather the ministers who were talking to us said that this would sympathetically considered.

“But today we have been told that the Parliamentary procedures like Standing Committee etc could not be short-circuited. Some timeline can still be adhered to,” he said.

He said the government appeared willing to consider the issue of timeline. PTI