Government wanted to split us, says Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi: With the Lokpal Committee tapes bringing into public domain the now well known differences and hostilities between the UPA government and Anna Hazare's team, the battle lines seem to have been drawn sharper.

The audio recordings of the proceedings of the Joint Drafting Committee, constituted to draft the Lokpal Bill, were made public by the government after a Right to Information application by activist SC Agrawal sought access to them. The files reveal what transpired at the Drafting Committee meetings and why talks broke down between members of the civil society and the government.

Speaking about these tapes, Arvind Kejriwal, the key architect of Anna's movement, said they were proof that the government was never serious about the bill. He also said that the government "tried its best to split Team Anna."

Interestingly, Mr Kejriwal also added that the only minister who showed flexibility throughout the talks on the Lokpal Bill was Pranab Mukherjee, who he said was stalled by his Cabinet colleagues Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram.

The Joint Drafting Committee, comprising of five members from Team Anna and an equal number of Cabinet ministers, was formed to finalise the draft of the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill.
The ministers on the committee included Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram, Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid. Civil society members included Anna Hazare, Justice Santosh Hedge, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal.

Between April and June, Anna Hazare's team of activists met with the government nine times to discuss the bill, which creates a new ombudsman agency that will investigate complaints of corruption against government servants.

The Drafting Committee was embedded with bitter mistrust and disagreement. Finally, in June, the activists and the ministers agreed they would present separate drafts of the same bill. What angered the activists was that their version was reduced to virtual footnotes on the government's version. In protest, 74-year-old Anna began his second hunger strike in August, which ended when Parliament agreed to consider his vision of the Lokpal Bill.