Anna ups the ante, what options does the government have?

Anna ups the ante, what options does the government have?

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New Delhi On a day Team Anna upped the ante, setting August 30 as the deadline to pass its version of the Lokpal Bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave out a clear message that Parliamentary processes have to be adopted. Dr Singh said that the Lokpal Bill was in front of a Standing Committee where everyone could give their opinion. (Read: Table Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament on Tuesday, says Team Anna)

"We have presented a Lokpal Bill in Parliament... There are difficulties. Certain stages have to be crossed and we hope people will appreciate that there is a dynamic of legislative process that takes time to get over. We must work together to push forward the case for strong and effective Lokpal, and should remove obstacles in the way," the Prime Minister said. (Read and watch: Committed to strong Lokpal, says PM)

Demanding an early introduction of the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament, earlier today, Team Anna said the government can get it passed in days if it has the will. (Read: Who is Anna Hazare?)

"If the government has realised what sort of a Lokpal Bill the people want, then there will be no problem to pass it till August 30. Monday is a holiday for the Parliament. They can withdraw their Bill and introduce Jan Lokpal on Tuesday. On August 29, 30, it can be passed," former Law Minister and close Anna associate Shanti Bhushan said.

On Day 5 of Anna's fast, the Parliamentary Standing Committee that's examining the Lokpal Bill brought out an advertisement in all leading newspapers, inviting public views on the Lokpal Bill within 15 days. However, the Anna camp claims the government is not serious.

Kiran Bedi, former IPS officer and a member of Team Anna, asked why the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill weren't mentioned in the advertisement, and said the government does not want an informed debate.

Sources have told NDTV, that the Standing Committee on Law and Justice that is examining the Lokpal Bill will meet in the first week of September to discuss the Bill. Thereafter, the Committee is likely to invite Team Anna to share its views. (Read: What is Jan Lokpal Bill?)

While the government officially maintains it cannot table the Jan Lokpal Bill, proposed by Team Anna, in Parliament, there are indications that the Standing Committee may consider incorporating some of its elements in the government's Bill. The process, however, is expected to take time.

"If we, at the Standing Committee, complete the entire process of consultations, analysis and arrive at a decision by August 30, will you not make fun of us? You will accuse us of not applying our minds," said Abhishek Manu Singvi, Chairman, Parliament's Standing Committee on Law and Justice. (Read and watch: No time limit can be specified on Lokpal Bill, says Congress)

Interestingly, just hours after the Anna camp set a new deadline for the government, other powerful voices within the civil society spoke out, criticising both the government and Team Anna's versions of the Lokpal bill. Prominent members of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), presented their own version of the Bill before the media.

"We have differences with Team Anna's version of the Lokpal Bill....They should consult the House panel...The Standing Committee is an important institution...We cannot get rid of institutions," said Aruna Roy, a member of the National Advisory Council. (Read: Anna ill-advised, govt's Lokpal Bill can still be changed, says Aruna Roy)

While the fresh deadline set by the Team Anna may be seen by many as shifting of the goalposts, it has undoubtedly put more pressure on the government that's already on the backfoot. Given the massive public support Anna Hazare's crusade has received, perhaps, time is running out for the government, and its options fairly limited.

Story First Published: August 20, 2011 20:20 IST

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